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Animal shelter plans moving ‘slowly’

Amanda Marsh • Feb 20, 2012 at 6:58 AM

Debbie Dobbs is “paws-itive” the Johnson City/Washington County Animal Shelter will have a new location in north Johnson City that more than 8,500 animals a year will call their temporary home. It’s just going to take some compromise.

The Washington County and Johnson City commissions, along with the Animal Control Board, all have to agree on the details of the project, which is progressing slowly.

“They still have things to work out, but I’m still going to think positive that we can all work together and get this done,” said Dobbs, the animal shelter director.

Last week, Dobbs met with the Washington County General Health & Welfare Committee to answer questions about the chosen location on 3411 N. Roan St. and to discuss the allocation of $350,000 from the county to help with the cost of the new shelter. The matching funds from the Johnson City Commission was allocated Feb. 2 under the condition that the money is used only toward the purchase of the property and the remainder is used for construction.

By the end of the meeting, the Washington County General Health & Welfare Committee recommended to the county’s budget committee that it recommend the dispersal of the $350,000 by the County Commission. There’s no time frame as to when the recommendation will be addressed by the budget committee, or any guarantee that the County Commission will approve it. With uncertainty being the main result of the recent health and welfare committee meeting, Dobbs is focused on moving forward and doing what it takes to get the new shelter in motion.

“I felt a little bit of disappointment, but in my heart I feel that our community is going to rally and that our commissioners are going to come through for us and we’ll get a new facility,” she said.

At this point, Dobbs says she’s preparing for all the upcoming meetings by gathering ideas and sample floor plans used by other shelters to show committee members what options are out there. There are also plans to begin looking for an architect who will come up with potential designs for the building.

The Animal Control Board and the Washington County Humane Society are considering a potential fundraising campaign that would allow people to have family and pet names engraved on the bricks at the front of the new shelter.

“Having people’s names on this shelter who really care about the animals will make it more like a community-felt project that will really be appealing to people,” Dobbs said.

The current animal shelter on 525 Sells Ave. is 8,900 square feet on one acre built in 1986. Dobbs said the proposed 6.6 acres on North Roan Street would be a great location for a 12,000- to 16,000-square-foot facility with plenty of room to add on in the future.

The extra space would allow for more kennels and a cat condo system that could potentially save hundreds of animals’ lives.

“I do believe with a larger facility to hold them longer and to house them properly, they’re more apt to get homes and that means less animals out there not being able to reproduce and bring more (animals) in,” Dobbs said.

The shelter recently released its annual report that stated 8,710 animals were taken in last year. Of that number, 63 percent were euthanized and the remaining 37 percent of animals were either adopted or returned to their owners. Dobbs says this number is average compared to counties close in size to Washington County, but she still believes the number of euthanized animals would decrease if they are allowed to move into a bigger facility with more modern offerings.

“I always feel like when you’re euthanizing healthy unwanted animals, that should be stress to everybody,” she said. “Doing it for space isn’t what euthanasia is for and it shouldn’t be used for that.”

If the new shelter doesn’t come to fruition, Dobbs said these numbers will remain steady, as they have the last 10-15 years. About 1,000 animals will come through the doors each month between June and September. The current shelter is in need of major repairs to the roof and yard, which is covered in mulch several times a year in attempt to control the mud that surrounds the outdoor buildings.

Dobbs is trying not to use any reserve funds on the current facility so the Animal Control Board can put the monies into their “new, permanent, home.”

She envisions an indoor/outdoor building that is comforting, but not flamboyant. She said she would like to see a more inviting cat room, an all-purpose meeting room for owners to interact with their new pets and a display area for educational materials.

Dobbs said no one will be able to bring these ideas to life unless taxpayers express their opinions or support by communicating with their county commissioners, whose contact information is listed on the Washington County website: www.washingtoncountytn.org/government/countycommis  sion/members.

“I think we all should have a say in it and the more support we have from our community, the more the commissioners will understand that this is important,” Dobbs said.

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