Mayor updates county officials on animal shelter issues

Published 9:04 am Thursday, September 8, 2016


Some county officials received an update on the situation at the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter Wednesday morning from County Mayor Leon Humphrey.
Just over two weeks ago, ECCAS Director Stacey Heiden was relieved of her duties by Humphrey following a review of shelter operations.
On Wednesday, Humphrey addressed the Financial Management Committee, which he serves on, and updated them on the issues found at the shelter. According to Humphrey, proper procedures for quarantining new arrivals and isolating sick animals from the healthy animals were not being followed.
“We were in the middle of a pandemic with panleuk,” Humphrey said.
Feline panleukopenia —also known as Feline infectious enteritis, feline distemper and cat plague — is a viral infection affecting both domesticated and wild feline species. Humphrey said the virus had spread throughout the cat population at the shelter and as many as five cats were dying each day as a result of the disease.
“What we were doing, and it’s totally wrong, was we were mixing those animals in the population,” Humphrey said. “Every room was infected.”
The county sought help from the University of Tennessee and an independent company regarding the issue, Humphrey said, adding the shelter began implementing the recommendations of both entities. Among the recommendations was a strict cleaning regimen for the area at the shelter where the cats were housed because the disease can remain in an environment for as long as a year.
“We’ve not had any loss of life as far as the cats in the last five weeks,” Humphrey reported.
According to Humphrey, the review also discovered that proper records on the animals were not being maintained.
“In a shelter you have to make sure for every animal that comes in you have to have a file started,” he said, adding that files were not always created for animals.
In his report to the committee, Humphrey said some of the issues with the animal shelter was a lack of appropriate oversight of the operations. Humphrey described the county’s former animal shelter as an “animal control operation” where animals were brought there and once the space was full animals were euthanized.
When the new animal shelter was constructed the operation changed from strictly animal control to more of a modern shelter operation, Humphrey said. With the change in operations, Humphrey said appropriate procedures were not put into place.
“It’s not any one individual’s fault,” Humphrey said. “It’s all our faults — it’s the Mayor’s fault, the City Council’s fault, the County Commission’s fault.”
Humphrey said he and other members of the Animal Shelter Advisory Board did not know how to operate a shelter so they depended on hiring a director who could put the proper policies and procedures into place and make sure they were followed.
“Earlier this year I began receiving a number of complaints regarding different procedures,” Humphrey said.
At that time, Humphrey said he began a review of the shelter operations. Through that review, Humphrey said he learned a lot regarding the shelter and its operations.
“We are not adequately funding and are not adequately staffing the shelter to make sure the welfare of the animals is being maintained,” Humphrey told the committee. “If we are going to have the facility, we are going to have to support it and staff it adequately.
“It is going to take a major commitment from this Commission and we are going to need a strong director to lead us,” he added.
Humphrey also informed the committee that plans are underway to construct a 1,000 square foot expansion to the cat area at the shelter and also to construct outdoor kennel areas for dogs.
“We’ve made tremendous improvements in the past 60 days but we still have a long way to go,” Humphrey said. “Good things are happening at the shelter.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox