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Owners legally responsible for animals running at large in TN

At the recent January commissioners meeting, Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter raised concerns over the increasing number of phone calls received by the sheriffs department pertaining to animals at large. These calls are not limited to dogs and cats, but include horses and livestock. At this time, Johnson County does not have its own animal control program in place.
Currently, those residents that live in the county rely upon the sheriff’s department to respond to an animal-at-large situation. In an emergency, Sheriff Reece may make the decision to contact Gary Phillips, Mountain City Animal Control Officer. The county and Mountain City have previously established an agreement for such situations. Mountain City in turn will bill Johnson County for time and any housing spent on animal control issues. According to Reece, the sheriff’s department received 400 calls from county residents regarding animals at large in 2010. They saw an increase in 2011 to 511 calls. “They (Mountain City) have been great to help us,” said Potter. “The city has helped us out all they can.”
According to Potter, county funds are stretched and there is no funding to build and maintain a county animal control facility at this time. He reports an increase in the number of aggressive dogs in the county. Under Tennessee law 44-8-408, dogs are not permitted to run at large. Owners can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense if warranted resulting from a dog running at large that does not cause any property damage, injury or death all the way up to felony charges should the animal cause physical harm or death. Owners can also be found guilty of animal cruelty and neglect. If found guilty, additional fines can be imposed that include the cost of the care of the animals and their housing, in addition to any court charges.
Tennessee state law 68-8-103, Anti-Rabies law, requires that all cats and dogs over six months old must be vaccinated for rabies. All vaccines must be given by or under the supervision of a veterinarian. A certificate must be received that indicates the name of the owner and current address, the date of the vaccination and when the next vaccine should be administered, the description of the animal, information on the vaccine manufacturer and lot number, as well as both the name and signature of the vet. There is an option for a one-year or three-year shot. The animal will receive a tag to be worn on its collar, as well as the proof of rabies vaccine certificate.
Nella Dionne is the current president of the Johnson County Human Society, a no-kill facility located on Pine Orchard Road in the Butler community. According to Dionne, Mountain City Animal Control has the option to bring an animal to their facility if room is available and they are found to be adoptable. Any cat or dog brought in must be screened for adoptability. They do not take feral cats nor Pit Bulls. Rottweilers are also evaluated before this breed will be accepted at the facility. According to Dionne, most people looking to take on a new member of the family are looking for young and healthy animals. The facility is always in need of volunteers.
“The Johnson County Humane Society does a tremendous job with the spaying and neutering problem,” said Potter. “If it weren’t for them, we would have more of a problem.” He reminds people to be diligent in the care of their animals and to keep them under control at all times.