MADISONVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– Monroe County is officially one big step closer to getting a new animal shelter after the County Commission voted Tuesday night to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Monroe County Friends of Animals.
Jim Barrett, President of MCFA, said it’s about time. MCFA has been trying to work with the county for years to build a new shelter. “Of course before we can build, we need to know that if we build it we have enough money to run it, and so that’s where an agreement with the county comes into play,” Barrett said.
Barrett said plans for the new building started a few years ago when at the time, the county commissioner agreed a new facility was needed. However, funding was always a concern.
“The county’s attitude changed in terms of sharing our goal for a new shelter. Last year, you know, about 14-15 months ago, I got a call that they were going to close the shelter entirely. They reconsidered after reducing the budget,” Barrett said.
With the new agreement in place, MCFA will solely fund — with donations and revenue from the nonprofit’s thrift store — the new facility and pay half for the operational budget once the new facility is completed. The county will pay the other half of the operational budget, which County Mayor Mitch Ingram said is actually less than what the county pays now.
“So, financially, it’s a good piece. And certainly, when we move into the new shelter, there’s going to be so many more services that can be offered for not only our animals, but the community in general,” Ingram said. Ingram said it wasn’t easy to get most of the commissioners on board for the new shelter. As Barrett said, the budget played a big role in the commission’s initial turn down.
“Earlier on in the process, I think that the county wanted to get in the investment at a little lower, maybe, just because we can spend a little bit more money in this particular area,” Ingram said. But, he said, everyone knew the county was in need of a larger, nicer shelter for the animals.
He said the agreement is a win-win is also a win-win for the community, and not just because the county will be spending less of the taxpayer’s money on the shelter than it does currently.
“Animal control, the shelter, adoption rates, all of that. There are no strays on the streets. Families are happy, animals get good homes, whether it be a foster home or a new home,” Ingram said.
Barrett said before the animal shelter was created 17 years ago, and before the work, MCFA started doing at the shelter, strays lines the streets of Monroe County. He said at that time, the shelter took in about 5,000 animals a year; last year, the shelter took in around 1,500. Barrett believed that’s in part because of the spay and neuter work MCFA did, and continues to do, throughout the county.
He said the shelter is very important to the community, and there were several reasons why a new facility was needed.
“There are hundreds of people that come in here and adopt every year. And, I mean, there’s a special bond between animals and people, so those families are better off for that adoption. There are hundreds of people that come in here that maybe love their pets, but can no longer for whatever reason take care of them and surrender them. So it’s a service to those people,” Barrett said.
Barrett said they now also partner with more than 20 other organizations to help make sure the animals go to good homes. He said the kill rate at the shelter has gone down tremendously because of that. He said now they euthanize only for medical or aggression reasons. He said the current building is on a lease with the former veterinarian who owns the property. So, the shelter would have to move out at some point anyway.
Plus, it’s just not big enough, or safe enough, for the work they do.
“This is a very cramped, small facility. The new shelter will have a layout that enables everybody to do their job better. It will be a much better place for volunteers to work. Cause it’s tough to work here, even as a paid employee,” Barrett said.
The animals will be able to be all under one roof. Currently, puppies have their own small facility and the dogs are kenneled outside year-round. So, with the new building, those dogs will be able to be in the A/C during the summer, and heat during the winter.
The new agreement last for six years. Ingram said after the new shelter is built and MCFA takes over operations, the county will then go into a contract with MCFA, similar to contracts they have with waste removal.
Barrett said since the commission voted in favor of the agreement, the next step is to finish funding for the building. He said they have a good chunk, but still need to raise a lot more.
He said someone donated four acres of property for the shelter, but more information will come out about that later when the plans are finalized. MCFA hopes to break ground on the new facility by the end of 2022.
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Both Barrett and Ingram also wanted to thank the Kefauver family for continuing to support the shelter, especially since the shelter will be staying on their property until the new building is ready.