Animal Shelter Board discusses ordinances during workshop session

Published 3:04 pm Monday, July 2, 2018

Feral cat populations and animal hoarding are two of the major issues facing animal control officers and the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter, and local officials are hoping to soon adopt ordinances that would help deal with those and other problems.

Last week, members of the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter Board met in a special workshop session to discuss some proposed ordinances to establish in Carter County. The City of Elizabethton currently has ordinances dealing with animals, but the county does not.

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“There’s some good things in this, but there’s some things in this you absolutely can’t enforce,” said Board Vice Chairman Buford Peters, of the draft the Board was working from.

One of the concerns which the proposed ordinances failed to address, according to Peters, is animal hoarding. Peters said he knows of several cases of individuals who have 40 or more cats on their properties, which he said is creating problems for others in those neighborhoods.

“These people who have them can’t feed them, and they can’t take care of them,” Peters said. “They can’t afford to euthanize them. Our shelter doesn’t have the capacity to take them, so what do we do? It is totally getting out of hand.”

Animal Shelter Director Shannon Posada said the problem of animal hoarding is not uncommon in Carter County.

“There are numerous locations in the county that have 30 plus cats,” Posada said. “There are locations that have 30 to 80 cats. There is one location in Gap Creek that has about 90 cats.”

In these areas, Posada said residents are putting out food for the cats. While providing food for the animals might seem like the kind and right thing to do, it can exacerbate the problem by drawing in even more cats. Many of these animals are pets that have been turned outside or left on the sides of roads.

“When the cuteness wears off no one wants to take responsibility anymore,” Posada said. “They just push it to the side and hope it becomes somebody else’s problem, and it does. It becomes this community’s problem.”

Dr. Ashley Eisenback, who serves as the veterinarian for the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter, said combating the problem with feral cat populations, animal hoarding, and other animal issues will take a multi-faceted approach, but the first step will be establishing responsibility and accountability for the animals.

“We need to make our laws stronger,” she told the Board.

Eisenback said she had researched animal ordinances in place in other Tennessee counties and cities and had printed off copies of some of the policies she would like the Board to review and consider.

Peters said he would meet with Eisenback and review the policies she had found and work with her to bring a better draft of proposed ordinances back to the Board for review. John Bland, who serves with the Friends of the Animal Shelter group, said he would also like to assist in the review and drafting process.