Clarksville, TN – Montgomery County Animal Control Director Karen Josephson says her department is “overwhelmed” with unwanted pets and strays, and the problem doesn’t look like it’s getting any better.
In an exclusive interview with Clarksville Online, Josephson explained the situation she and her staff have been dealing with the last couple of weeks.
“Last week, when we got here, somebody had dropped five dogs OVER the fence in the middle of the night, which means we have to keep THOSE five animals for the state required minimum of three days, and since we’re already full and have nowhere to put them, we had to euthanize five animals just to make room for them. It’s become a war zone down here, and we don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. It’s very stressful on me and my staff” said Josephson.
Josephson says it’s against the law to abandon an animal in your care.
According to Tennessee Code Annotated: (TCA) 39-14-202.3: It shall be unlawful for any person to abandon unreasonably an animal in the person’s custody.
People are also breaking another law by dropping their pets over the fence, after the facility has closed for the day.
Tennessee State Law (TCA) 39-14-202.2: It shall be unlawful for any person to fail unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, care, or shelter for an animal in the person’s custody. Montgomery County Resolution (MCR) and Clarksville City Statute Section 3-105: Treatment and handling of confined animals: Animals or fowl of any kind shall not be kept or confined in any place where the water, shelter, ventilation, and food are not adequate and sufficient for the preservation of its health, safe conditions, and wholesomeness for food if so intended.
There is no food, water or shelter in the yard at Animal Control. It’s used to exercise the animals during the day.
By leaving these animals unsupervised, and without food, water and shelter a person can be cited and fined. The Animal Control facility is under video surveillance twenty four hours a day, and citizens are trespassing after hours.
“We have a major problem in Clarksville/Montgomery County and it’s not getting better. We’re swamped with unwanted pets and strays, and we have no choice but to keep them as the law requires, but if they aren’t adopted, we have no choice but to put them down.”
The real predicament is that Animal Control is also accused of being “the bad guy” because they have to do the dirty work of euthanizing animals. People just assume that they can drop their pets off, and someone will adopt them. That’s not the case. Pet adoptions are not keeping up with the number of animals that come into the facility on a daily basis.
Clarksville Online spoke to several people who dropped off animals during our visit to the facility. One man told us that he had to move his mother in with him to care for her because she has early onset Dementia, but he couldn’t care for her dog too. He dropped her chihuahua off saying, “I gotta do what I gotta do. They’ve adopted pets out for me before.”
The odds are not in that dog’s favor.
Another woman told me that she had two kittens she was keeping at her apartment, having bottle fed them from babies, but her landlord wouldn’t let her have pets. The landlord gave her two months to find them a home, but then they had to go. As she sat in her car crying, she told me “I tried everything. Craigslist, Facebook, anything I could think of. I just can’t afford to move right now, so they had to go. It breaks my heart.”
Animal Control is also battling the effects of social media, like Facebook and Twitter.
Josephson says she spends a great part of her day answering phone calls from rescue groups from all across the country asking about an animal they saw on Facebook or Twitter.
“I was on the phone with a group just today who was giving me grief about a Dalmatian she saw on Facebook that said the dog was at risk of being euthanized, and they wanted to know how could I do that without trying to rescue that dog? I told her that that particular dog HAD been rescued, and the information on Facebook was wrong. This is what we deal with down here, people who think they’re helping by posting on Facebook, are really making our job more difficult, because now we’re getting yelled at for something we didn’t do. We’re human too. We feel for these animals, and it seems that all we get is grief coming and going’ said Josephson.
Josephson said that throwing money at the problem isn’t the solution, although donations are accepted.
“What we need is for people to spay and neuter their animals. That’s the solution. People just don’t do it, and these animals multiply and become a community problem. It’s reaching epic proportions here. I’m surprised that I’m not getting yelled at for keeping some of these animals for thirty days. I spend my weekend’s on the phone trying to adopt these animals. It’s unlike any problem I’ve ever encountered in my career. It’s hard not to take this home with you. We just don’t know what to expect each day when we come in.”
Animal Control employees are also putting themselves at risk, by having to deal with dangerous animals.
“Some of these dogs are just vicious, said Josephson. Our people have to go get dogs that will bite you. We have to keep them here, and they’re a danger to the other dogs as well. They can’t be socialized with the other animals and more than likely they won’t be adopted, so while they’re here, they can be a danger. We willingly and compassionately do our jobs, but sometimes it really gets out of hand.”
Animals ARE being adopted at Animal Control, and Josephson has extended the facility’s hours of operation to be available to the public. For a nominal fee, citizens can adopt a pet at Animal Control. Plenty of cats and dogs are available, so please drop by their Spring Street facility and take home a new pet.
If you’re interested in volunteering at Animal Control, you would be welcome. During the research for this story, a young Ft. Campbell soldier was there walking dogs and giving them exercise.
“They won’t let me volunteer on post, so I spend my spare time down here helping out” said the unidentified woman.
Donations of food and clean up would be welcome. “It’s the little things we need help with, said Josephson. If you can spend just one hour down here, it would help me and my staff tremendously.”
If you would like to volunteer or make a financial donation, please contact Montgomery County Animal Control at 931-648-5750.
Images taken during a tour of the Montgomery County Animal Shelter Monday.