Temporary animal shelter to open in Sevier as Pets Without Parents closes

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The cities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville is announcing plans to open a temporary shelter as Pets Without Parents closes.

The Sevier County budget committee voted Tuesday to move forward with the plans until a permanent solution can be found. The county mayor said he will begin working with city managers to get the temporary shelter up and running as quickly as possible.

A worker at the Pets Without Parents animal shelter in Sevierville told WVLT on Monday, May 14, that the facility would be officially closing on July 1. The worker said she was not aware of where the animals would be transferred after the shelter's closing.

Mayor Larry Waters issued the following statement to WVLT News regarding Pets Without Parents:

“It is my understanding that Pets Without Parents will cease operations on July 1. Therefore, three options were presented to the Budget Committee Thursday regarding moving forward with county animal services. One was a proposal presented by the Sevier County Humane Society to work with the county and cities for the next 18 months. The Budget Committee chose to reject the proposal from the SCHS due to the past poor working relationship. The second option was for the cities and county to operate a shelter on a short-term basis (12-24 months) with people previously affiliated with the SCHS, led by Sally Worden. That proposal would utilize the current amount of money being allocated for animal services. The third option was recommended by the committee, to research the possibility of condemnation via eminent domain to acquire the present SCHS facility on Gnatty Branch Road. While I understand the committee’s frustration, I am always very reluctant to use the power of condemnation unless absolutely necessary. Therefore, I continue to believe the best solution for our citizens and the animal welfare is for the cities and the county to agree on the second proposal, working with experienced people on a short-term shelter, while continuing the process of building a county and cities operated facility. The county is researching condemnation via eminent domain, as requested by the Budget Committee.”

The worker who spoke with WVLT Monday said she was one of only a few volunteers who was still reporting to the shelter after the facility received criticism following the euthanasia of 42 cats in mid-April. Shelter officials said they had "too many cats" due to taking in as many as they could to meet county and city contracts. Board members admitted the shelter was well over its 150 animal capacity.

After the news of the euthanasia was released, other volunteers and previous workers told media the conditions at the shelter did not meet standards of cleanliness and sanitation.

"The biggest concerns for I and the staff were the conditions the animals were in, and the environment itself just wasn't suitable," former shelter director Daniel Langston previously told WVLT.

However, president of the shelter Lory Souders told WVLT that rumors of unsanitary conditions were not factual.

"We get in there, we clean all their kennels, we disinfect them, we give them all fresh water," she said.

Souders also said the intake facility at the shelter is disinfected twice a day. Plans were previously made to finish construction on an improved intake center by late April.

Pets Without Parents became the only intake shelter and official animal control center for Sevierville after a contract with the Sevier County Humane Society was ended in June 2017.

Meanwhile, the Sevier County Humane Society has taken to social media, asking the county to work with them instead of seizing their property through "condemnation via eminent domain" as the shelter said the county budget committee has proposed. The humane society said it previously submitted proposals to local governments in Sevier County that would place SCHS as the main animal shelter and services provider in the county. As part of that proposed contract, SCHS would take care of these duties for up to 18 months, and for a budgeted cost to governments on a month-to-month or quarterly basis.

However, SCHS said that proposal was rejected by local government officials.

SCHS began a petition online to try and protect the humane society from government seizure. As of Monday night, the signature goal of 2,500 on that petition had been nearly realized.