Animal shelter expands hours, workforce to accommodate need


Photo by Dave Boyd
The Elizabethton-Carter County Animal Shelter has added a part-time employee and longer working hours to take in unwanted animals like these kittens.

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com
The Elizabethton-Carter County Animal Shelter has extended its hours and added a part-time employee to accommodate the number of animals being dropped off to run free near the shelter facility.
"We have hired a part-time employee and instituted new hours for animal drop off," said Caroline Hurt, executive director of the Carter County Health Department, which oversees the animal shelter operation.
The shelter will remain open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and is tentatively considering a schedule to open on Saturday afternoon.
"We will let the public's use of the shelter to drop off animals dictate our hours on Saturday," Hurt said. She also said her office planned to work with city of Elizabethton officials to publicize the shelter's hours on the city community information channel in the future.
The shelter had previously operated from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday after reducing its hours last month. The shelter closed drop-off boxes located outside the facility for citizens to leave unwanted animals after hours, a move that resulted in several dogs and cats being loosed near the shelter to roam freely on Sycamore Shoals Drive.
"It is unbelievable what people do," said Wendy Mathes who was hired as a part-time shelter employee this week. "They will drop them off out in the road even if I'm here."
The Elizabethton-Carter County Animal Shelter houses dozens of unwanted animals at its location. Mathes was hired to allow the shelter to return to normal operating hours during the week. She said last week that the shelter presently houses 25 dogs and roughly 25 cats.
The shelter had been under-staffed due to one employee who has taken sick leave after being injured. Freddy Turner has been doing a one-man job of keeping the shelter open to the public and serving as animal control officer for the city.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) celebrates October as Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month to encourage Americans to visit their local animal shelter if they are looking for their perfect four-legged match.
ASPCA estimates approximately 8-12 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year and approximately 5-9 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats). Shelter intakes are almost evenly divided between those relinquished by owners and those picked up by animal control.
Mathes said she worked as a volunteer at the shelter for two years. During her time, Mathes said she observed people essentially abandoning animals near the shelter rather than bringing them inside or using the drop boxes.
"If people will come by now, they can see it is very convenient," she said. "It doesn't cost them a penny."