Going to the dogs and cats

Animal Care facility gives peek at progress

Chi Chi was there, so was Shiloh and Layla and their people friends and supporters who wanted to see the progress made on the construction of the Blount County Animal Care Center.

Even with the wet and cold weather making construction a struggle the top-notch volunteer support has helped keep Phase I of the construction project moving forward, said Chris Protzman, president of Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation.

“We need $180,000 to get the kennel portion functional,” said Rick Yeager, SMACF co-founder. The needed funds will pay for HVAC, electrical work, plumbing and to finish the ceiling of the facility.

Located behind the Boys and Girls Club of Blount County on Currie Avenue, the 9,000 square-foot Animal Care Center construction project is five times the size of the former shelter on Home Avenue.

The facility will include the animal control office, a quarantine area for strays, a three-room surgery suite along with a recovery room, a bathing room, a cat and kitten room in addition to a puppy room located at the front of the facility. Future plans for the facility include an education room where pet owners will be instructed on pet care. Dog obedience courses and field trip visits will also take place in the education room, once the Animal Care Center is completed.

One of the highlights of the Blount County Animal Care Center is the state of the art kennels. Yeager, who was providing tours of the facility at the sneak peek event, said there will be 25 kennels on each side of the building for a total of 50 kennels.

The second bay of the kennels will feature outdoor runs. A perimeter fence will surround the outdoor runs so the dogs can frolic as well as rest in a shady area. Each set of bays in the kennel will have hose hookups and are designed so they can be flooded in order to clean and disinfect them twice daily.

According to Yeager, neighborhood dogs understand the facility is going to be a special place for animals. In early March, when the sneak peek of the new animal care facility was originally scheduled and postponed due to the weather, Yeager came to the building to make sure everyone was aware of the change in plans. What he saw surprised him. Two neighborhood dogs were sleeping in the shelter.

“A pet can give you back five-fold of what you give them,” Protzman said, who said he became involved because his beloved black Schnauzer passed away from pancreatic cancer. That same week, a stray wandered into his neighborhood. He contacted Yeager, who is president of Arfnets, a non-profit animal rescue and fostering networking organization. Together, Protzman and Yeager founded Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation. Protzman said the foundation is staffed 100 percent by volunteers and has raised approximately $150,000 toward the $1.6 million project. Protzman said the majority of the funding is coming from gift-in-kind giving, which to this point, has been between $400,000 and $500,000.

According to Yeager, the contributors to the construction project include Tom Brunton Masonry, Harrison Concrete, Vulcan Materials and Willocks Brothers Co. The general contractor for the project is Carrico Construction, and the construction engineer is Michael Brady.

Yeager gave an example of community support and interest when he told about receiving a phone call from Gina Wooten with Gina’s Country Kitchen, who offered to provide the food for the sneak peek event at the facility.

With approximately 4,000 strays in Blount County every year, a lot of research was conducted to make sure the facility is equipped to provide the right programs to reduce pet overpopulation, Yeager said.

Reducing the euthanasia rate is a priority, Yeager said. “We’d like to find homes and extend the holding time,” Yeager said. Working closely with local rescue groups, instituting spay and neuter programs and educational programs are just a few of the ways the Blount County Animal Care Center plans to reduce euthanasia rates.

“Animals adopted from a shelter have a stronger bond,” Protzman said. He said the statistics can’t necessarily be proven on paper, but you can see the connection and the love in the eyes of the pet.

The next step is for the organization’s advisory board to provide recommendations to the County Commission who endorsed the project, donated the land and provided an inter-government loan that will be paid back with the facility’s adoption fees.

“The County Commission looks to the advisory board for updates and they can appropriately take action,” Protzman said. “We’re at a critical point.”

To function at a basic level, the facility still needs $180,000 to complete Phase I, which is the kennel portion of the project. Phase II and III is the adoption center and educational area and will require another $700,000 to be completed, he said.

For more information how to donate to the project, go to www.smacf.net.

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