MOUNT CARMEL, Tenn. (WJHL) — The animal control facility in Mount Carmel is shut down.
City officials have said the building is not up to code. Now, the question is what happens to the animals.
Vacant kennels fill the rooms of the facility. Employees explained the kennels have been empty since April 9.
“We take in animals and we care for them until a rescue steps up or they get owners that are interested in adopting or reclaiming,” said Tabitha Hicks, a former employee.
Hicks said she was fired after the city officials claimed the facility was unsafe.
“I took it amongst myself to try and show the residents of Mount Carmel that it is indeed not caving in,” Hicks said. “In return for that, I was pulled into a meeting that was supposed to be about discussing policy to better perform my job.”
City officials stated the facility is unsafe for housing animals because of roofing issues. Now, the animals are being sent to the Hawkins County Humane Society until the next Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, when a decision may be made on whether the facility should continue operating.
“All that was reported to the board earlier this year was we had a roof leak. It went from a small leak to somebody saying the building was unsafe,” Alderman Steven McLain said. “The building was constructed before we had a building code, so it doesn’t meet current code. So, I don’t understand how I can hear a lot of talk about the building not being up to code, well, it was built prior to code.”
While safety is an issue, McLain said he believes the facility is an asset to Mount Carmel, therefore it needs to be relocated within the town.
“It’s inside the sewer plants, fenced-in area. In my opinion, it would be a lot better out by itself where the public can access it a lot easier,” McLain said in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “We have the funds to do our animal shelter. I feel like it needs to stay inside the town.”
Alderman John Gibson said he believes the animals should be transferred to Hawkins County Humane Society and that Mount Carmel should not be in the shelter business.
“The facility definitely needs some repairing to the ceiling, to the roof, and we’ve got estimates of that upwards of $40,000,” Gibson said. “That’s where looking at the fact that we only have like 62 animals last year, it becomes a, ‘is it a really smart investment for us to spend that kind of money on repairing the animal shelter that’s only serving you know, that’s only serving 1-point-something animals a week.”
McLain said, “From the people that I’ve talked to, 99% of them want an animal shelter in Mount Carmel. If my dog was out and they were to pick it up, I would have to drive to Rogersville to get it. You know, I don’t think that’s good business.”
McLain said the town does have the funds for the animal control facility, which is sometimes used as an animal shelter, and believes it needs to stay inside the town.
Hicks believes the town should stop outsourcing to other counties.
“Selling, letting other businesses take over, as far as Hawkins County, they reached out to Kingsport. I mean, Kingsport already picks up their trash, I mean there’s plenty of residents in Hawkins County that would like jobs to stay within Hawkins County,” she explained outside of the animal control facility. “They don’t have money going to these animals. They don’t have the vet care done. I have paid to have the vet care done. I am one of many rescues that have paid to have these animals taken care of.”
Hicks said she commends the Hawkins County Humane Society for stepping up during a time the animals need the community the most.
“Without them, I don’t know what would happen to these animals,” Hicks said.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen plans to have a public hearing May 20 regarding the facility.