New Sullivan County Animal Shelter director seeks to prevent another parvo outbreak

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BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL)- This July, the Sullivan County Animal shelter has experienced a deadly parvo outbreak, major animal overcrowding, and a manager who quit after one day on the job. But newly-appointed shelter director Cindy Holmes has plans for a new beginning. 

“We have a lot of work to do. There are facility issues, staffing things that we need to take care of. There’s going to be a lot more accountability.”

SEE ALSO: Shelter prepares to reopen after another parvo outbreak claims 7 dogs

Holmes was appointed director by the Animal Shelter of Sullivan County Board this week. She officially begins her position on Monday, July 29.

Holmes says she has more than 20 years of experience working with animals. She’s taking control after the last shelter leader suddenly quit on July 1st. 

“When I heard that he left, it was almost a calling to me that said ‘Hey, you know, you are uniquely qualified in this area,'” Homes said.

The shelter officially closed July 1st when a litter of unvaccinated puppies caught the highly contagious parvo disease. At least eight dogs died or had to be euthanized. The shelter is now open again with improved sanitary practices. The University of Tennessee Mobile Veterinary Lab came this month to teach staff proper cleaning procedures.

“The solutions that we’re using, as far as cleaning solutions, we have improved that to what is the gold standard actually,” Holmes said.

SEE ALSO: Sullivan Co. Animal Shelter to reopen Wednesday for cat adoptions after eighth dog dies

As for past issues with unvaccinated animals, Holmes says this too will improve. She hopes for greater outreach in educating the community on the importance of vaccinations.

“A very inexpensive vaccination for those animals could have prevented the parvo,” Holmes said.

The shelter has new intake procedures in place to keep animals safer.

“We’re going to have tests on site. If we have a positive test, we can contain quicker,” Holmes said.

But fixing the shelter’s issues involves working with humans in addition to the animals. Holmes says that in the past, there’s been a rift between shelter employees and the volunteers. She says everyone is now on the same page in moving forward with shelter improvements. 

“With me coming in, I’m known to the volunteers,” Holmes said. “I’m known to the county officials in a positive light, and I’m known to the shelter employees as well. I hope to be a bridge for that.”

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