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'It hurts me to the core' | Critics raise concerns about Anderson Co. Animal Shelter; director says there's nothing to hide

County commissioners discussed whether to add a new veterinary director and security cameras to increase transparency.

ANDERSON COUNTY, Tenn. — Melonee Lund worked at the Anderson County Animal Shelter for more than 2 years. Eventually, she said it became too much.

"I had absolutely no support from Brian Porter. I was drowning," she said. "I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown when I quit."

She's raised concerns about whether Porter had a proper license for euthanizing pets and whether his practices were humane.

"[I saw the animals] behave totally not the way they should behave when being sedated and then humanely euthanized," Lund said. "It takes such a toll emotionally, physically and mentally."

Lund is one of more than a dozen people who spoke at a May 9 operations committee meeting about concerns with how the Anderson County Animal Shelter is run. 

Nicole Ferrara also expressed her concerns.

"It hurts me to the core," she said. "It hurts me to think that these animals died in pain."

However, Brian Porter, the director of the shelter, told commissioners that's simply untrue during the May 9 meeting. 

Credit: WBIR

"That is garbage, complete garbage," he said about allegations that he improperly killed animals. "Never happened. Never will."

He disputed nearly every concern raised at the committee meeting. Porter said the only thing he's done wrong is let his license for euthanizing animals accidentally expire.

"My license expired February 28, 2021. Our premise permit expires February 28 2022. I thought that was my euthanasia, and it's my fault. I take full responsibility," he said. "There's no drama. There's no malice. There's no ill intent at all."

Commissioners proposed hiring a new veterinary director and adding cameras to increase transparency. Porter said he'd be on board.

"Our doors are wide open," he said. "We have nothing to hide."

Still, many of the people who spoke up said that proposal doesn't go far enough.

"What I'd like to see is for Brian Porter to step down and somebody take his place," Lund said. "In my opinion, I think Brian Porter is burned out."

Sarah Lilly said she wants to see Porter step down too. 

"As animal lovers, we have to be a voice for the voiceless," she said. "That's our job."

During a meeting on Monday, officials said the location is not well serviced by internet providers which could lead to complications when installing security cameras. Their current internet is wired from another nearby facility, an IT leader said at the meeting on Monday, and it would need to be upgraded to handle security cameras.

They said the location overall was not well equipped but were still working to improve the shelter.

In 2021, they said they took in 697 cats and 482 dogs. They said they euthanized 17% of cats and around 10% of all dogs they took in that year. However, in previous years they said they euthanized around 71% of all cats they took in.

"These are fast clips of growth at our shelter," they said at the meeting. "We are trying."

They also described an incident where the shelter took in six animals that were found to be abused at a person's home. They said they couldn't talk about taking those animals in while the District Attorney prosecuting the case, and they kept the animals for 513 days because the owner refused to relinquish custody. They were in the shelter from January to June, officials said.

"We want zero [euthanasias], we would love zero," they said at the meeting.

They also said they supported the idea of hiring a veterinary leader to oversee policy choices at the shelter. They also said that Anderson County Animal Control was working to renew their euthanasia license. 

Commissioners said that the shelter could need more funding to improve it, possibly building it up beyond its current capabilities.

"Us being just a small holding facility, we don't do a lot of the programs that the large facilities do," said one commissioner. 

Commissioners voted to authorize the Anderson County Mayor to hire a veterinary director and to set up an advisory board with commissioners about the shelter.

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