By Jeff Keeling
Debbie Dobbs was exhausted by Thursday afternoon after two days spent moving the Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter into a brand new building at 3411 N. Roan St. It was a good tired, as Dobbs and her staff looked forward to Monday’s opening and a grand opening celebration that is set for 5 p.m. June 27.
“It’s been overwhelming the support we’ve had,” said Dobbs, the shelter’s longtime director. Along with staff, inmates from the Washington County Detention Center and community volunteers helped move materials and, more importantly, 167 cats and 86 dogs to the 18,000-square-foot shelter. The new location, in addition to having far superior equipment and accommodations – the laundry equipment, for instance, has four times the capacity of the old shelter’s – has 148 kennels, up from 82 at the former shelter on Sells Avenue.
“We are not anywhere near capacity,” Dobbs said with a smile.
That news was music to the ears of Johnson City Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin, who has been instrumental in both public financing and private fundraising for the new shelter. Van Brocklin praised the shelter and the Humane Society of Washington County for their joint efforts that have driven down sharply the number of animals being euthanized over the past couple of years.
He called the shelter’s opening a significant step toward essentially eliminating unnecessary euthanizations in the community, which averaged nearly 5,000 per year between 1985 and 2012.
“With the spay and neuter programs that the humane society’s put in place and with the greater efforts at fostering and rescuing, we’re pretty close to no-kill on dogs right now,” Van Brocklin said.
“There are other steps that have to take place as well. We have to have some ordinances in place that make it easier to trap, neuter and release feral cats, because a big portion of our euthanasia from this point going forward is still cats.”
In the meantime, animals that wind up in the shelter will have more time to either be adopted or placed in foster care through the humane society, thanks to the additional kennel and cat capacity. And they’ll do their waiting in a facility that is climate controlled, constructed with their health in mind, and should prove a much more appealing site for visitors looking to adopt. One “cat habitat” near the front entrance will feature kittens at play, another will host “well-socialized” adults. The main cat area is well-lighted, even though the cats are in close quarters.
“The facility’s only a partial answer, but it’s a big part of it,” Van Brocklin said. “Word of mouth will advertise it a lot when people come in and see what a huge difference it is from the old shelter.”
For information on the shelter, visit tailchaser.org or call (423) 926-8769.