Community members raise concerns, updates provided on animal shelter

Published 10:22 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Star Photo/Curtis Carden  Shannon Posada, who serves as a director of the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter, commended the efforts of the staff at the facility for the continual work put in since her hiring.

Star Photo/Curtis Carden
Shannon Posada, who serves as a director of the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter, commended the efforts of the staff at the facility for the continual work put in since her hiring.

With passionate discussions breaking out at times, the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Advisory Board and Friends of the Animal Shelter group convened inside the Carter County Courthouse for the first meeting of 2017. The group met to hear updates and concerns raised by community members about the current situation of the facility.
Animal Shelter Co-Director Shannon Posada, who commended the efforts of the staff on site for their work with the animals, provided an updated status of animals at the facility – stating that the population includes approximately 23 cats, 19 dogs and four cats at Petsense in Elizabethton.
John Bland, a rep with the Friends group, asked Posada what would be considered max capacity at the shelter, with the director responding with 45 cats and roughly 26 dogs.
Overpopulation was a concern in previous months, according to Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey, who added that the recent success of the adoption events had led to the shelter being able to maintain animals inside during the winter season.
The issue of co-directors was brought up during the meeting with multiple inquiries asking the mayor, who serves as one of the three co-directors, alongside Susan Robinson and Posada, to allow Posada more control. Posada currently oversees daily operations while Robinson is in charge of policy and procedures while Humphrey is in charge of overseeing construction.
“Our goal is phase Mrs. Posada into a position to where she can do each of the duties,” Humphrey told the Elizabethton Star. “We don’t want to bombard her with so much right now that we’re looking for another director once again.” Humphrey added during the meeting that, “the mayor does not want to be involved at that level,” discussing his and Robinson’s recent work at the shelter.
The phasing-in process is expected to start following an investigate audit currently being performed by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office with other divisions possibly being involved, including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
“We do not have the letter with the findings at this time,” the mayor said, adding that possible criminal charges could be found through the report.
The issue stemmed from the shelter self-reporting results after problems started to arise during the summer, Humphrey said, adding the shelter began receiving calls into a cat feline panleukopenia epidemic.
“We have proven since June, with the proper protocols, that we can eradicate the death,” he said. “Our animals have been healthy and the cases of euthanizing animals either came from severe medical issues or temperament.”
Mike Barnett, chairman of the advisory board, added during the meeting that he was upset the board was out of the loop with operations at the shelter.
“What can this board expect from the mayor’s office,” he asked. “We have people that want to be connected, procedure changes and I’m in the dark.”
Humphrey stated the board would be brought up to speed once the comptroller’s report comes in, which could up to six months.
Euthanasia was later introduced again by Commissioner Danny Ward, who questioned the mayor about the shelter’s license with the DEA to use the drugs, which is no longer in effect at the shelter – with euthanasia being performed offsite.
“Who’s name was on the license,” Ward asked.
Humphrey responded by saying the shelter’s name was on the license and that former Director April Jones was the only person at the office who could utilize the drugs.
When asked about how the drugs were disposed of, Humphrey added the drugs were kept in the mayor’s office, locked, and properly disposed of per DEA recommendation with an official present and disposing of the material.
“A full report was given to the Carter County Sheriff’s Department because there was someone that said the mayor’s assistant inappropriately disposed of the drugs,” he said. The mayor added the proper paperwork had been filed with the DEA and that the shelter could reapply for a license when they feel the need to have onsite euthanasia.
Citizen Robin McKamey, who spoke at the recent County Commission meeting, later asked why volunteers were not being allowed to do jobs in the shelter.
Humphrey added the lack of volunteer help is per request of the comptroller’s office and that citizens wanting to assist can go through the local Humane Society or the Friends group to help raise funds due to the shelter being run as a county entity.
“We’ve got a meeting set with the Humane Society this week to show them what we’ve done, what we are doing and how many animals have been spayed or neutered,” Humphrey said. “We’ll present that to them and then ask them how they will confirm this. We’ll do this with the Friends group, too. We can’t solicit donations.”
Barnett added it’s the goal of the board to help reconnect volunteers with the shelter.
“There’s been a lot of improvement at the shelter,” he said. “Our goal is to try to figure out ways, as a board, so that we can help you all reconnect with us.”
Humphrey the county has been in discussion with a nationally-known nonprofit organization about possibly setting up shop in the area to help with volunteerism. The mayor did not disclose the name, adding he didn’t want to mention it until a plan has been finalized but said, if finalized, the group would be an extremely helpful asset to the community.
Shifting the shifting from county government to a nonprofit organization was also brought up, with financial concerns hemming up the process.
“This keeps coming up; you got to understand … those people that have nonprofit (status) have a huge Humane Society with a mass amount of people and a huge volunteer base that are willing to throw money in to make it happen,” Bland said.
Bland stated 10 years ago the Friends group started playing music to raise food for the shelter. In time,  the group was able to raise roughly $100,000 over the span of eight years to contribute to the $500,000 price tag to construct the shelter – which both entities contributed $250,000 each.
“You’re looking at $400,000 a year to do this now,” Bland said. “You can’t just flip a switch and make it happen like that.”
McKamey said that various shelters in surrounding counties were run by nonprofits, adding she had spoken with the shelter director in Unicoi County, which operates as a nonprofit receiving funding from three government entities.
The financial discussions continued with the recent DeLawder estate donation being brought up, with the mayor adding the gift was a significant improvement for the shelter. The estate is providing roughly $500,000 for housing expansion and the purchase of a van to use for spay/neuter trips to Lincoln Memorial University – which the funding was earmarked for by the moderators of the estate. The funds did not go elsewhere, including the Humane Society.
Humphrey said the county is expecting the van by the March 1 deadline and county employees will handle the driving duties until grant opportunities are available. A possible driver could also be hired by the county.
The mayor added the spay/neuter would be cost effective for the county and that it would be a positive thing for the community. The shelter currently adopts some animals out, without being spay/neutered, with the adopting individual signing a contract.
While the passion exuded at times, Barnett added the goal of the community is ever-prevalent with people wanting to help the animals.
“All I ever wanted to do was support the animals,” he said. “It isn’t about getting my photo in the paper or standing behind a shovel … that’s what other people deserve. It’s all about the animals. We need to work together for them and we all have that goal.”

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