Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 11:04 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 7, 2022 at 3:44 PM EDT
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Friends Animal Shelter of Cocke County representatives announced on June 29, that they no longer plan to operate as the county’s animal shelter, citing massive over-occupation.
Representatives made the announcement on Facebook, saying the shelter was seeing an average of 94 animals a month- almost twice what it is equipped to handle.
“We did everything humanly possible to provide this service and the number of animals that needed to be taken into the shelter has overwhelmed our facility, staff, and volunteers,” the announcement said.
Friends Animal Shelter representatives also said that they had received inquiries from county commissioners asking why they were refusing animals, a choice they had made because Friends is a no-kill shelter. “We will not euthanize a healthy animal to make room for another animal to be euthanized later,” representatives said.
WVLT News spoke to Sara Kenney, a board member and vice president at the shelter about the decision.
“We made the decision at that time that there were two things happening,” Kenney said. “One-there was no increase in money to help us fund this. Because what they give us is literally less than half of what it costs to run the shelter. And the second thing that was happening was there was more and more talking about becoming a kill shelter.”
The overpopulation got so bad, Kenney said, some employees have had to take animals home to care for them.
“Working with the county we’ve been at capacity, which has been a frustration for them and a frustration for us too,” she said. “We’ve had staff actually take animals home because we didn’t have a spot for them.”
Wednesday last week, the shelter’s board of directors delivered a letter to Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger, letting her know the shelter plans to end its contract as the county’s official shelter after a one-month extension to “give them time to come up with a plan to replace our services.”
Going forward, shelter representatives said they plan to continue operating as a nonprofit organization, caring for the animals that they can. They also said they plan to work closely with the county’s new shelter in the future, and asked the community to help with their funding.
Shelter officials said they plan to launch a membership program soon, along with a fundraising campaign. While that is being set up, the shelter is taking donations through this link.