Volunteer opportunities to restart ‘soon’ at animal shelter

Published 7:26 pm Thursday, September 21, 2017

Individuals wanting to get involved with the animals of Carter County and Elizabethton will soon have the “purr-fect” chance to do so at the local animal shelter.
Following the official designation of new animal shelter board by county and city governments, steps are being taken to constitute volunteer opportunities on-site at the facility. Community members looking to get involved at the shelter are encouraged to attend the upcoming Friends of the Animal Shelter Board meeting on Thursday, Sept. 28, at 6 p.m. in City Hall.
Friends of the Animal Shelter operates as the shelter’s nonprofit organization to raise funds and do other events to help with operational costs at the shelter.
With new oversight in place, rekindling the relationship with the community is a top priority, according to Friends Group Chairman and Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter Board member Mike Barnett.
“We appreciate the public being very patient with all the transition we’ve gone through,” Barnett said. “We want to move forward with bringing people back to our shelter. We want people to reconnect again with our shelter. For the longest time, we’ve been telling people they can’t come until this or that occurs. We feel like with the director we got, and with the board we have now, we can definitely reinstitute not only the volunteer program but foster programs and rescue programs. All three of those programs and integral parts the shelter needs to handle the influx of animals, to help our staff and just for the welfare of the animals in our shelter.”
The new board in place consists of Barnett, Wes Frazier, Kim Birchfield, Sam Shipley, Sonja Culler, Kelly Collins and Buford Peters.
Barnett added the goal of Thursday’s meeting would be to create a list of possible volunteers, fosters and rescue programs and begin the process of vetting individuals to allow citizens back into the shelter.
“The most important for us is to have a shelter our community is a part of and also proud of,” Barnett added.
Volunteering at the shelter was suspended for a period of time by the Carter County Mayor’s Office following an investigative audit by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office. Mayor Leon Humphrey resigned as the oversight chair for the shelter, which then led the to the formation of the new board, which officially went into effect last week after receiving a final vote of approval from County Commission.
Barnett added he’s been in contact with the Comptroller’s Office and estimated a report from the audit could receive anywhere from two weeks to a month.
“They did not state that we had to disavow volunteer opportunities at the shelter,” Barnett said. “There was concern raised by some county offices and leadership which they felt it be necessary to suspend activities. We feel confident with our director and board in place that we can continue having the opportunities available to the public.
“We realize there could be issues moving forward,” he added. “But we’ll move on our feet quickly with the board we have in place to address those problems.”
Thursday’s meeting will be used as a way to gauge interest and begin the process of bringing back more community involvement at the shelter, Barnett said. The group has been key in the livelihood of the shelter with Barnett commending the efforts of the individuals that have helped since the beginning, including the late Diane Horton.
“Our Friends group really needs to get back up with the people that can get involved,” he added. “That doesn’t mean you’re just a volunteer. We’re looking for people that can help organize adoption events, help with our social media presence and even gauge the interest of someone who’d like to offer photography services to help take photos of the animals. Our goal is to do what’s in the best interest of the animals. We’re going to compile a list of volunteers and others wanting to help and go through the vetting process to make sure we have the people in place that can assist our shelter staff and be an asset to our animals.”
Barnett added the group would continue to work alongside other organizations, like the Carter County Humane Society.
“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “I would like to see us all work together and develop programs for the animals. We don’t worry about who gets the pat on the back. All of our goals are the same.”
The animal shelter will host an adoption event on September 29 from noon to 4:30 p.m. and September 30 at Petsense from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. All adoption fees are sponsored, allowing citizens to adopt an animal free of charge.

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