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Commissioners urged to address animal control issue in county

By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer/Photographer

Many county residents are becoming increasingly concerned about animal control, or more appropriately, lack thereof, in Johnson County. While the Town of Mountain City offers an answer to the animal control issue, the county currently has no plan for animal control. Previously, The Johnson County Humane Society operated the only shelter available to county residents, but due to the exorbitant cost of operating the facility, the Humane Society was unable to continue in its efforts. Last May, the Humane Society met with County Commissioners in hopes of developing a viable answer to the animal control issue. It is the hope of Humane Society members as well as many county residents, that the county purchases the Humane Society facilities, which are located in Butler. Though the dialogue has remained open, the county has yet to provide a solution to the ever-growing problem.
Nella Dionne, the President of Johnson County Humane Society, Incorporated has been increasingly critical of the county’s efforts in regards to animal control. It is the belief of Dionne that lack of action by County Commissioners is the reason nothing has moved forward in reference to the purchase of the Butler facility. The current sale price for the Butler facility is $350,000, which includes the 4,400 square foot building as well as 34 acres of land. The Humane Society made a starting offer to the county of $250,000 for both land and building, which according to Dionne is the appraisal value of the building only. In addition to the $100,000 discount, the Humane Society also proposed that the county take over the facility on a lease to own basis. According to Dionne, “Only one commissioner made any effort to find financing, and he could not get the Animal Control Committee to support his recommendation and bring it before the entire commission.” The Commissioner Dionne is referring to is District Four Commissioner Jonathan Pleasant. When asked for comment, Pleasant responded to Dionne’s comments saying, “I think there’s a misconception by many of the other commissioners that we’re limited in our options. I feel strongly that we need to reopen the issue and discuss further options in order to get this off the ground.”
The Johnson County Humane Society is a strictly volunteer based 501C (3) non-profit organization. Their funding is solely based on donations and fundraising efforts, such as the annual Humane Society Rummage Sale. According to Dionne, both lack of volunteers and the exceptionally high operational costs prevented the Humane Society from continuing to operate the Butler facility. Dionne went on to say, “The membership agreed that we could better effect the over all animal welfare of Johnson County elsewhere such as our spay/neuter program, education, and pet microchipping.”
The Johnson County Humane Society is not the only organization in Johnson County dedicated to the welfare of animals. Back in September, The Tomahawk published a story headlined “Dog rescuer’s goodwill turns to desperation.” The article told the tale of a local woman who began accepting strays and ended up with far more dogs than she could handle. In the end, the woman was struggling to feed and care for 60 dogs. That’s when Sharon Bryant and Christy Young of Blackjack Rescue stepped up to help. Through the efforts of Blackjack Rescue as well as several other rescue organizations across the United States, the 60 dogs have since been placed in loving homes in various parts of the country. Blackjack Rescue is based out of Piney Flats, Tennessee but after seeing the desperately increasing need for animal control in Johnson County, Sharon Bryant, the head of Blackjack Rescue, has made a commendable effort to provide an answer to the ever-growing problem.
Like the Johnson County Humane Society, Blackjack Rescue is also a 501 C (3) non-profit. Through the efforts of their rescue and relocation program, Blackjack Rescue finds homes for over a hundred puppies and dogs each year. Blackjack Rescue, has reportedly been met with many of the same frustrations as the Johnson County Humane Society. Sharon Bryant told The Tomahawk “The problem is most people, including county governments see dogs as a liability.” Like Dionne, Sharon Bryant would like to see the county purchase the Humane Society facilities and has even offered to help run the facility. Because Blackjack Rescue has various resources throughout the country, they have an impressive success rate when it comes to pet adoption.
There are several factors that play in to the need for animal control. Pet abandonment occurs at an extremely high rate in Johnson County and though residents with the willingness to help are in abundance, the experts agree that it will take cooperation from local government to provide a viable and sustainable answer to this problem. If you’re an individual that would like to be part of the solution, you may visit the Johnson County Humane Society website at www.jchsi.org. On the Humane Society website is a list of ways to help as well as a link to contact information for every Johnson County Commissioner. You may also visit www.bjackrescue.net to learn more about Blackjack Rescue.