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Reader offers thoughts on animal shelter and support

To the Editor:
I have been working with our animal shelter since before it was an animal shelter. First, with what then Commissioner Ronnie Trivette called “The Pound,” then with the planning committee, then the building committee, to the board of directions of the new animal shelter, to the advisory board, to the Friends board. I would like to make two very important points for the commissioners and city council and the residents of the city and county to consider.
First, in the early years before the new shelter, Wendy and Freddie were taking in, as an average, over 300 dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens a month that were dumped off at the old pound by a small population of people that refuse to spay and neuter their pets or observe the leash laws. That is almost 4,000 dogs and cats a year. These poor unwanted animals were literally brought in the front door or dropped outside the gate in duct taped boxes, euthanized and brought out the back door and taken to the landfill. They had no other choice. There was no room, no food, and no money. There were 12 active colonies of ferral cats with numbers in the hundreds that had taken over neighborhoods and was completely out of control. Flash forward 15 years and with the hard work our animal Sshelter, Shannon Posada and her staff and our current low to no cost spay and neuter programs, we are now a virtually no-kill shelter with numbers that are still too high but controllable. The ferral cat explosion is over as they continue to catch, fix, and release.
Secondly, when the building committee was formed, I led the charge to fundraising events to benefit the shelter construction. Over the next eight years as plans and blueprints were being drawn and approved, I did three Parrots and Tails Concerts by the River that banked between $8,000 and $9,000 each. Several chili cook-offs and silent and live auctions from community donations and countless other smaller events as the people of Elizabethton and Carter County joined the task of building an animal shelter. When construction finally began and with the help of an army of volunteers, sponsorship from every bank and credit union in the community and almost all of the small businesses, I donated $100,000 toward the shelter construction. The point of that story is eight years of hard word to generate $100,000. For the commission to say that the shelter can be converted to a 501c3 and generate enough income to be self sufficient is simply untrue and ignores all the facts and statistics they have been given and is in reality a back door approach to close the shelter. As Commissioner Gary Bailey of the Sixth District said off record, “One way or the the other, I’m going to get rid of the animal shelter. I don’t care about the contract with the city. We’ll donate it to the city and let them deal with it.” The city cannot ask their constituents to take on that kind of financial obligation alone and again, it would close the shelter.
That would within a very short period of time put us back to before my first point. That population of people that refuses to spay or neuter their pets are still out there and we still do not see the need to enforce our current leash laws. That’s 4,000 dogs and cats a year that will be dumped on our community, drowned in the lakes, hit by cars and be a never-ending problem to our peaceful neighborhoods and our community and the reestablishment of the epidemic ferral cat colonies. Commissioner Brad Johnson of District 3 has said on record numerous times, “I can take care of the over-population of dogs and cats with a backhoe and a box of 22 longs.” It’s hard to offer logical solutions when dealing with that kind of mentality.
Nobody likes the expense of running an animal shelter but unlike when Leon Humphrey approached the city and county with a hypothetical number he pulled out of the air to fund the shelter and his personal agenda, this budget is a true and accurate spread sheet of exactly what things cost and what’s needed. It simply is what it is. If we want to reduce the cost, then help us reduce the numbers by enforcing the laws that are already on the books. It’s a very simple equation.
Over the years, I have witnessed previous commissions that ignored the facts, ignored the wishes of their constituents, and voted how somebody on the commission with a personal agenda told them to vote. Such as a jail that nobody today will ever see paid for or probably never be completed, or full price at over $100,000 for a tract of land to build a middle school that was in a flood zone and beside the Elizabethton airport, or over a half million dollars to Tom Anderson and Carter County Tomorrow that brought us zero new business. Millions of dollars wasted on bad ideas and actions and the list is long. The commission wants to divert shelter money to yet another economic development position at over $150,000 a year. Another waste of money. As Ivan Sanders stated in the STAR a few weeks ago, the future of Carter County is not big industry, but in tourism as we continue to expand our downtown and develop our beautiful and unique natural resources, our mountains, lakes and trout streams.
I hope this commission does what’s right and does what’s needed for the best of Carter County and looks ahead at the big picture. Our current mayor has something personal against Shannon and the shelter and has made that very clear in her actions and words. She is leading the pack of commissioners down the road to another very costly bad decision. The public needs to get more involved, write some letters, make a few phone calls and remember names at the next election. This idea of defunding the shelter and threats of a 501c3 has to stop.

John Bland
Roan Mountain