COCKE COUNTY, Tenn. — A local nonprofit organization that helped save the lives of animals and cared for them while searching for permanent homes will soon stop operating Cocke County's animal shelter.
The Friends Animal Shelter of Cocke County said they notified the mayor and county leadership that they would extend their contract to operate the shelter by only one more month, giving them time to create a plan to replace them. Once that month is over, they will stop serving as the county's animal shelter.
Their contract was set to expire on June 30.
"We could not legally and in good faith enter into a contract to accept all of the animals that the sheriff’s department and the general public bring to our facility," they said on social media. "We did everything humanly possible to provide this service and the number of animals that needed to be taken into the shelter has overwhelmed our facility, staff, and volunteers."
FASCC is a no-kill organization. Instead of euthanizing animals, they work to help them recover from injuries and illnesses when possible. They do not euthanize animals to make room for other animals in the shelter.
Over the past 2 years, they said they averaged around 94 animals per month. In total, they helped more than 2,300 animals, according to their letter to the mayor. According to their post, county leadership told them they could not refuse animals because they were funded by the county.
In the letter, they also said they had to tell residents their facility was full more frequently, as more people tried to surrender animals recently.
"We will never end our commitment to being a no-kill animal welfare organization," they said. "It is clear that the paths to accomplishing each of our missions are divergent and irreconcilable."
They said their facility has 48 dog runs to house and care for animals, so they would have to double their capabilities to meet the demands of the county. They said they would need two additional buildings, double the number of workers and double the revenue to adequately care for animals.
"We never could help all the animals in need – no matter how hard we have tried," they said. "We will go on with our mission as a nonprofit animal welfare organization. Neither our mission nor our passion has changed."
They also said they will continue offering free spay and neuter programs, as well as vaccination programs. They will also be changing their name in the coming weeks to the Smoky Mountain Humane Society.
On July 6, the Mayor of Cocke County released a statement about the shelter, saying leaders were working to make temporary plans to care for animals while searching for a permanent solution. The statement is below.
Under our current contract, we can enter into a month by month so we did extend the contract through the end of July. They’ve already invoiced us and we’ve sent payment in so we will continue with them until then. The shelter did say it will not be renewing the contract with the county. We are looking to make temporary plans while a more stable and permanent solution is determined.