Jayne Vaughn: Animal shelter objectives often misunderstood

Jul. 02, 2013 @ 11:48 PM

A frequently asked question of the Sevier County Humane Society is, “Are you a no-kill shelter?” The answer to that question is no. The Sevier County Humane Society is an open admission, full service animal shelter.

This means our doors are always open to any domestic animal in need, unlike “no-kill” shelters that selectively receive animals, and turn them away when they are full. Some even charge to drop off an animal. There is no fee to leave an animal at the Sevier County Animal Shelter.

These are some of the reasons animals come into the care of the Humane Society. They may be:

  • Homeless
  • Unwanted
  • Abandoned
  • Lost
  • Sick/injured
  • Victims of abuse or neglect
  • Displaced due to natural disasters
  • Their owners have been incarcerated
  • They require rabies quarantine
  • They are suffering and their owner has requested that they be put to sleep.

Once they arrive at the shelter:

  • If they are strays and have identification/microchip the owner is contacted immediately. If we are unable to reach them by phone, a certified letter is sent to the last known address.
  • An intake form is prepared detailing all of the information that we have on the animal, and any special needs they may have.
  • They are vaccinated and de-wormed on intake, unless they need time to adjust to the environment and then this is done at a later time.

The animal is then placed in intake if they are healthy and behaviorally sound. If they are owner-surrendered they may be put up for adoption immediately, or as openings become available on our adoption floors. Puppies and small dogs are housed in our romper room, and medium /large dogs in our adoption runs. Our adoptable cats are placed in our cat house.

Unsound animals are placed in our quarantine section. Sick and injured animals in our sick bays, where they are treated. If they are owner-surrendered and have bitten, or deemed dangerous or are suffering past recovery, they are humanely euthanized.

Unidentified stray animals are held in our intake area. Law requires that strays be held for 72 hours to allow the owner to reclaim. Our shelter holds strays for five days to allow owners more time to reclaim their pets.

If the animal remains unclaimed, it is then moved to the appropriate adoption area where there is no set time limit on how long they will be there. The animals’ stay at the shelter could be weeks or months depending on a variety of factors, primarily that they maintain good health and fare well in the environment.

We take great efforts to provide a loving, enriched environment for our animals, but sometimes they succumb to physical and/or psychological disorders. Sick or injured animals are treated, depending on their reasonable recovery however the Sevier County Humane Society believes that it is inhumane to allow unhappy animals to languish in a cage.

Sometimes euthanasia is our best option for them. Fortunately, most of them thrive with all the love, attention, and enrichment that we provide. In fact sometimes they grow to like it (and us) so much that they don’t want to leave. Some have even found their way back to us after being adopted!

The number one goal of the Humane Society is to reunite lost (stray) animals with their owners, and next is to find loving, responsible homes for our adoptable animals. We partner with shelters in other states where there is a shortage of animals for adoption. We also partner with PetSense, where we always have cats available for adoption, and dogs on the weekends.

We also have animals for adoption at the co-op the third Saturday of each month, and we always have animals available for adoption at our shelter on Gnatty Branch Road.

Full service animal sheltering is often misunderstood, and underestimated in all that it requires. I hope that this has provided a better understanding of how we provide for the 3500 needy animals that come into our care every year.

For information on our programs, including low cost spaying and neutering, please contact the shelter at 453-7000, or visit us Tuesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. at the shelter located at 959 Gnatty Branch Road (between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg off of the Spur).

— Jayne Vaughn is executive director of the Sevier County Humane Society.