Animal shelter staff endure last difficult winter before move to new digs
By Jeff Keeling
Debbie Dobbs paused Thursday from her cold morning labors spreading salt on the walkways between outdoor kennels at the Johnson City Washington County Animal Shelter. Asked for her thoughts about the pending move to a new shelter where no kennels will be completely subject to the elements, the shelter’s director gave a two-word response: “Can’t wait.”
The last half of February sent the shelter’s staff into a regular repetition of duties no one would envy. With the current shelter’s 60 outdoor kennels (only 24 are inside and climate controlled), the foremost of those duties involves breaking free the ice that forms on top of shelter dogs’ water bowls.
While Dobbs made the pathways safe for walking Thursday, the icebreaking duties fell to shelter employee Eric Ragan. With temperatures not far below freezing, they were easier than they had been a week earlier, when overnight lows ranged from the single digits to Feb. 20’s 13 below zero.
Those types of temperatures also create risk for the animals themselves, and that’s the main reason Dobbs is looking forward to the move to the new shelter off of North Roan Street near the State of Franklin Road overpass. “They won’t be outside anymore,” Dobbs said of the animals.
Fortunately, fewer of them have had to be outside this winter thanks to continued help on the adoption front. In addition to the shelter’s traditional adoption protocols, increased adoption events, fostering and other measures by the Humane Society of Washington County have helped keep numbers in the shelter lower than they otherwise might be.
Gary McAllister, a county commissioner and the newest member of the Animal Control Board, lauded the efforts of the staff, who should be settling in to the new shelter with its 148 climate-controlled kennels by mid-spring.
“In my opinion, they have done a great job over the past couple weeks keeping the animals safe and warm,” McAllister said.