Sevier Animal Care Center to get permanent shelter

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SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– The Sevier Animal Care Center will finally have a permanent home.

Ashley Thomas, the shelter’s director, said the shelter has been operating out of the temporary facility since it opened Nov. 1, 2018.

“This feels like a dream come true,” Thomas said.

Thomas said their current location off Dolly Parton Parkway is simply too small, although they have made it work while they’ve waited for a larger building.

“It is smaller than our needs, so we sometimes have to be creative,” Thomas said.

The temporary shelter is in an old auto garage.

Thomas said it has 32 canine kennels and 38 cat kennels, there’s no medical exam room and not enough office space for staff to input records while also taking in a new animal.

“We have to improvise and put up temporary tables in hallways sometimes, sometimes we just have to take things outside,” Thomas said.

The small space has made operations during COVID-19 a little more difficult, but at the same time they don’t mind working outside in the fresh air.

That becomes more of an issue if it rains.

If the shelter has no more room for new animals, Thomas said they rely on their faithful fosters and other rescues who can house them.

If that’s not an option, then her team advertises to the community, because the Sevier Animal Care Center is a no-kill shelter.

“More often than not, we do have to run flash specials and sales on adoptions just so we can keep animals moving,” Thomas said.

Thomas said when she was hired as director, the shelter’s board of directors always had a goal to build something permanent.

After finding architects, checking out several other shelters and a lot of Zoom calls, the plans were finally drafted.

“(We were) trying to get the schematics just right so that when an animal comes in, whether its through the public or animal control, it has a clear path through,” Thomas said.

The new facility will be located off Old Knoxville Highway near the Sevier County Food Ministries and Sevier County Fairgrounds.

It will have exam rooms; plenty of office space; a community room; double the amount of kennel space the shelter currently has; more space for the community pet food pantry; plenty of space to separate so there’s much less chance of disease and germ transfer and more.

Thomas said the new building will overall create a more safe and fun environment for animals and humans.

“We have a ‘catio’ planned. We have a cat colony room planned right off our adoption floor, so in both of those areas, people can actually walk into those rooms and sit down with the cats,” Thomas said.

She said how the space is laid out will also help make certain jobs little easier for the staff, such as cleaning the dog kennels.

“(Dogs) will have an indoor space and outdoor space and they can choose to go back and forth. And then there’s a guillotine door that shuts so we can clean all of one side and then open it, shut it again, and clean the whole outside,” Thomas said.

Thomas said she doesn’t know how much the new facility will cost, but the shelter’s board, which is the administrators of the county and municipalities, will supply most of the funding.

She said she is trying to create other funding sources as well.

“I’m actually in the middle of forming a Friends of Sevier Animal Care Center Committee to help me with fundraising, grant writing, events and things like that so that we can take some of the burden off the taxpayers,” Thomas said.

Thomas said she hopes to break ground on the new shelter within the next year.

As they get closer to opening, Thomas said they will need some donations for certain supplies.

The Sevier Animal Care Center has a wish list on its website, and will always take monetary donations as well.

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