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Animal shelter is new and growing

John Thompson • Mar 18, 2017 at 6:28 PM

ELIZABETHTON — To drive by the Elizabethton-Carter County Animal Shelter at 135 Sycamore Shoals Drive is to get a visual appreciation of how much the shelter has changed in the past few years.

While the new building has pretty much the same amount of space as the old building, Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey said there has been a drastic change in the shelter’s appearance. The new shelter is much more welcoming and provides a better chance for a potential owner to interact with a dog or cat. The shelter is also much more attractive on the outside.

The new shelter is a result of a long, difficult and ultimately successful effort by the Friends Group of the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter. Mike Barnett, one of the leaders of the Friends, said the group worked for several years raising money to build a new building.

Barnett said the group’s efforts eventually resulted in a $100,000 nest egg. That was far too small for the ambitious plans the group had for the new shelter. As a result, the city and county were asked to provide funding. The result was that the Elizabethton City Council donated $250,000 and the Carter County Commission donated $250,000 toward the building fund.

The Friends had hoped to build a 7,000-square-foot facility. The Elizabethton architectural firm of Reedy and Sykes donated their efforts in designing such a structure. That turned to be too ambitious, with bids coming in at $1.2 million for the facility. That was far beyond the $600,000 that had been raised to build a shelter.

As a result, Reedy and Sykes went back to the drawing board and designed a building that could be built for the money available. This time, things came together and the new, smaller shelter was built.

The building is 4,010 square feet with an additional 720 square feet of overflow space at the rear of the building.

There was still a need for more space after the building plans were downsized. That need is going to be met, thanks to Glenda Taylor DeLawder. An animal lover, DeLawder left $1.2 million in her will to the dogs and cats of Carter County.

The shelter has received $540,000 of the bequest to be used for expansion of the cat room and for dog runs.

The new cat room will be 1,002 square feet under roof. The expansion will also include another 1,002-square-foot concrete area at the front of the new addition for an exterior cat area for pretty days. The cost of the expansion is $248,628.

The expansion area for the dogs will be a 2,800-square-foot dog run. The space will be divided into 14 lanes. Each lane is 20 feet long, with 10 feet of each lane under cover.

Since the new shelter was built there has been controversy in the Carter County Commission and the Elizabethton City Council, but the controversy has nothing to do with the building. 

Humphrey said he found some serious problems with the management of the shelter after he received several complaints from citizens. He self-reported the problems to the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, which started a special investigation.

While the investigation was being conducted, Humphrey restricted operations to only city and county employees. The many animal lovers who had a long history of volunteering at the shelter were told they could not volunteer more time or service until the comptroller’s investigation was completed.

Two new avenues for the volunteers appear to be opening up. The Asheville, N.C.-based Brother Wolf organization is working to establish an operation in Carter County and will use volunteers. The volunteers have also formed an organization called Appalachian Tails, which will be affiliated with the Friends of the Animal Shelter but not with the government-owned shelter.

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