Passions flare at Animal Advisory Board meeting; Chairman calls for unity moving forward

Published 8:46 am Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Discussions were heated at times as the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter Advisory Board met for almost three hours Tuesday evening at the Carter County Courthouse.

After the meeting had to shift locations due to many residents coming out to attend, talks about policy and procedure snowballed into the Board wanting to be more of a presence with the activities at the facility.

The Advisory Board voted unanimously voted to allow Shelter Site Director Shannon Posada, Susan Robinson, and Lincoln Memorial University to comprise a policy and procedure rough draft and have it present at a future workshop.

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It was the discussion before the vote though, spearheaded by board member Bekah Price, that took hold of the meeting. Price went on to state she’d like to see the board work soon as possible with Posada to come together on a policy and procedures plan. The talks of getting the Board involved were preceded by Price stating concerns about the thoughts of some shelter staff about being stretched too thin from recent changes to operation hours. According to Advisory Board bylaws; Price said it was the committee’s job to have the policy and procedures for the shelter director.

When the recommendation of holding a workshop as soon as possible was made by Price, a back-and-forth between Price and Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey responded by proposing the 60-day window for a rough draft to be completed.  He added that a representative from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office was expected to be in the county Wednesday with more information in regards to the investigative audit going on.

The theme was common throughout the meeting as Advisory Board Chairman Mike Barnett also talked about wanting to have the board more involved and be more kept up to date with information about the shelter.

Humphrey went on to state there are many “fires to put out” at the shelter and that he was trying his best to keep the board informed.

“That’s such a heavy burden,” Barnett said. “We want to be there and help the county.”

Positives were highlighted by the mayor, who alluded to the fact that Lincoln Memorial is using the shelter as a teaching facility and that Paul Berry – executive director at Brother Wolf – would be hosting a rescue event Wednesday night at the courthouse at 6 p.m.

But during the open discussion, tensions rose as information broke about an animal that was euthanized by LMU on a spay/neuter trip after chewing his way through a kennel inside the vehicle roughly an hour out from the site.

Among concerns stated by citizens included the program Veterans Buddies – which represented the shelter and was assisted in a recent event. When pressed by Robin McKamey, one of the founders of Appalachian Tails, about the group – the mayor added the group received the support of the County Commission and were helping by giving back to local veterans.

Barnett, near the conclusion of the meeting, commended the efforts of the group.

“We’d eliminate the adoption fees in many instances,” Barnett explained. “(Veterans’ Buddies) is a little different. This program is trying to obtain who have a need through the VA, American Legion, through various other organizations. We’re not waiting for a vet to come around to get a cat or dog to help them. These people took it another step forward. They’ve done a lot of research and took it to the next level.”

As an argument and other words caused an end to the open discussion, Barnett spoke to a family of the late Mrs. Glenda Taylor DeLawder – whose estate funded shelter expansion and the recently converted transport van.

“I can’t thank you enough,” Barnett said.“When we look enemies in this room, it is hard to look at her and say how wonderful everything is. We are going to have to stop and think about things. We have a budget that will impact this community. Some of us may have to look at each other and say ‘did we really do enough good, or do a lot of damage,’ I want you to think about that.”

Barnett ended the Advisory Board portion with a plea to the board, attendees and the public.

“It’s time for us to end up thinking about these dogs and cats,” Barnett said. “If Brother Wolf is going to be the process we go through, we need to do our best to make sure Brother Wolf is successful. We need to build funds for this Friends Group. We need to raise these funds. 

“I want to serve,” he continued. “I want people who want to be involved. I want people who want to partner with me and this board to make it the best thing. I don’t want to go down (to the shelter) and look at those dogs and feel like they don’t have someone to speak for them or those cats. We can’t do that. Let’s find a way to mend fences and put things back together.”