Animal rescue volunteers question lack of funding

Animal rescue volunteers question lack of funding in rural counties

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Animal rescue groups are fighting an uphill battle in many of Tennessee's rural counties Animal rescue groups are fighting an uphill battle in many of Tennessee's rural counties
"I have actually asked some of the neighbors, offered free neuter for their animals, and they have refused so the problem just continues," Susan Kay said. "I have actually asked some of the neighbors, offered free neuter for their animals, and they have refused so the problem just continues," Susan Kay said.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

RUTLEDGE (WATE) - Animal rescue groups are fighting an uphill battle in many of Tennessee's rural counties where there's no government animal control to deal with dangerous or abused dogs and no animal shelter to keep strays off the street or help find them homes.     

County leaders say it's either not a problem, or there's simply no money to help. Animal advocates say it's an issue that affects everyone and deserves taxpayer funding.    

It's taken Susan Kay several months to get her current three foster puppies to eat from her hand. The Grainger County Humane Society president trapped them at the landfill, where she says neighborhood dogs not kept contained has led to a feral population. 

"I have actually asked some of the neighbors, offered free neuter for their animals, and they have refused so the problem just continues," she said.

Kay says people need to be responsible for their pets.

"They think I'll just let it go and it will find a home. And they let it go and it doesn't find a home. It gets hit by a car," she said.

Grainger County Mayor Mark Hipsher says the issue isn't severe enough to warrant government funding.

"I don't think it's worse than its always been. There's always been dogs that ran loose," he said.

In neighboring Hancock County, Mayor Thomas Harrison loaned a small empty building to the Overhome Animal Rescue, but it needs a lot of work before it can be used as a shelter.

"We have some members that their husbands do construction and they're going to volunteer their time when we can get material," said rescue volunteer Linda Hammett.

She says they still need an animal control officer.

"So that when we got the phone call that said, I see these dogs everyday, they're starving, they're hungry, can you do something? Well, we can't go in. We don't have any legal right," Hammett said.

Mayor Harrison has also seen problems with packs of strays.

"They'll come after your pets and your stock," he said.

He says money to help isn't available right now. 

"There are so many other little things you have to weigh out, jobs, unemployment rate, all those things," he said.

In Scott County, Lauren Jeffers is one of several For the Love of Paws members fostering dogs who need to find homes.

"Animal abandonment is really bad. We see it all the time. We get calls daily," she said.

Mayor Jeff Tibbals says he has looked into the possibility of a shelter. 

"I've heard budgets anywhere from $150,000 to $300,000 a year. In a county like this, we couldn't place that extra tax burden on the citizens," he said.

In Fentress County, a member of the Best Friends Sanctuary has 60 dogs at her home. The group used donations to build a small shelter on land owned by the county. They hope to have it open by the end of the year and staffed by volunteers. 

"We even have a church group that volunteered to come in and clean cages and someone to be here every day," said rescue member Margie Taulbee.

Fentress County Executive Frank Smith says the group is doing their best without taxpayer dollars.

"We don't have the money," he said. "It's just not possible at this point."

In Morgan County, Humane Society volunteers get lots of calls for help, but there's not much they can do.

"If you have a vicious dog, you don't have anybody to call that can come and handle that dog properly," said Jackie Wagoner.

Mayor Don Edwards says his office doesn't get those calls and that's why Morgan County doesn't fund animal control or an animal shelter.

"We really don't have the problems with a lack of it, because if we did, we would have one because the citizens would demand one," he said.

The volunteers 6 News spoke with say spaying and neutering animals is the best way to fix all of the problems they see, and they all offer help to pet owners willing to do that. Most of the groups also foster animals looking for homes and transport many of them up north where there isn't such a large unwanted animal population. These groups are always looking for donations and volunteers.

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