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Animal Shelter once again draws controversy in Carter County

John Thompson • Mar 20, 2017 at 10:22 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter was once again a hot topic when the Carter County Commission met Monday evening in the Main Courtroom.

The shelter and its community support received accolades and an award from Asheville, North Carolina-based Brother Wolf Animal Rescue while it received strong criticism from former shelter volunteer Robin McKamey, who has opposed the decisions to end volunteer support at the shelter and to allow dogs and cats to be taken from the shelter without being spayed or neutered.

Denise Bitz, founder and president of Brother Wolf, and Paul Barry, executive director of the rescue organization, attended the meeting to present Carter County with the first leadership award to an animal shelter. Barry said Brother Wolf has been searching for four years to present the award, but never before had a shelter and its community met the high level of performance to qualify.

He said Carter County impressed Brother Wolf with the turnaround that has taken place in the past year, going from a 90 percent kill rate to a 98 percent save rate for animals in the shelter. He said the budget for the shelter has also been increased.

“We have never seen such top-down leadership,” Barry said.

McKamey once again spoke during the time allotted for citizens to speak. She said the commission had heard from Brother Wolf, but she said there are always two sides to a story, and she was presenting the “other side of the story.”

She once again compared the way the shelter used to be run when volunteers were allowed to support it and the way it is now run. She said the first shipment of dogs and cats had been sent to Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate for spaying and neutering,

McKamey asked the commissioners “who is holding the mayor accountable?”

With no outlet to provide volunteer service to the shelter, McKamey said the former volunteers have established their own program, called Appalachian Tales.

At that point, Mayor Leon Humphrey, who is also chairman of the County Commission, stopped McKamey, announcing that her time to speak had expired. McKamey was followed by another volunteer, Samantha Morgan, who attempted to yield her time to McKamey, but Humphrey would not allow it. Morgan then continued speaking, saying “we need to be spyaing and neutering.”

In other matters, the staff of Roan Mountain State Park was recognized because Roan Mountain had been recognized by the state as the 2016 Park of the Year “for its demonstrated excellence in innovation, sustainability, interpretation, resource management and fiscal responsibility.”

Commissioner Doc Miller called for a school resource officer to be assigned to Little Milligan Elementary School. Currently, there are 14 officers for the 15 schools in the Carter County School System. Little Milligan is the only school without an officer.

Commissioner Randall Jenkins made a motion to send the matter to the Budget Committee for its consideration. His motion passed unanimously.

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