By Clint Gill
Glade Sun editor
The holiday season is a time of gift giving and charity. Unfortunately it’s also a time of year when families struggle to make ends meet. When hard times fall on people they have to make tough decisions; often that means they have to get rid of the family pet, which in turn translates into more mouths to feed at animal shelters.
Fortunately for the animals of Cumberland County, a network of volunteers has come together to care for them when no one else will. The Cumberland County Animal Shelter has partnered with volunteers from several different organizations with one goal in mind, saving animals. This consortium consists of nonprofit organizations such as AARF (All About Rescue and Fixin’ Inc.), Wags & Whiskers, Wildlife Rescue, Plateau Animal Hospital, Best Friends, Hart and the Upper Cumberland Veterinary Clinic, among others. Their mission has been to reduce the euthanasia rate for animals that come to the shelter, and they have had their collective hands full. The shelter takes in about 3,000 animals per year, many of which are brought in sick, injured or wounded. At one point the euthanasia rate for these animals was over 70 percent. Thanks to the efforts of these organizations, that number has been drastically reduced. Now about 80 percent of the animals who come to the shelter get transported to other rescue operations around the country who have found adoption homes for the abandoned pets. Since June AARF has transported over 1,000 animals.
AARF is a small group of unpaid volunteers that has partnered with the shelter. The volunteers have a passion for animals, often times fostering them in their own homes until they can find permanent homes. Their goal is to rescue all animals, to treat all illnesses that can be treated and to maintain a “no kill” record. AARF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. They rely on public generosity for funding.
AARF pays for every vet service the animals receive at the shelter, to include every vaccination, Frontline for fleas and deworming (99 percent of the dogs brought to the shelter are infested with worms).
If you lose your pet there is a good chance it has found its way to the shelter. Pictures and bios of adoptable pets from the shelter are available on AARF’s website. This list does not include animals that fall under the “stray hold” category. It is an owner’s responsibility to call the shelter if their pet goes missing. However, the volunteers ask that you put a collar and tag on your pet, so that if it does get loose they can find you.
The most important step an owner can take to control the animal population is to have their pet spayed or neutered. The cost to house an animal at the shelter can be exponentially greater than what it costs to spay or neuter a pet. Sterilization is a simple process that can save a lot of unnecessary suffering, and the cost is typically less than what you would pay to take care of an unwanted litter. Wags and Whiskers is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Crossville that offers financial assistance for those who cannot afford to have their pet sterilized. They are also able to refer those who can afford the surgery to a local veterinarian or spay/neuter clinic. At the time of interview, the shelter had 34 puppies, as well as one female who was described by the vet as “the most pregnant dog [she’d] ever seen.” Though AARF had managed to find a foster home for her, it was unclear if she would be able to be transported in such condition.
Current needs include donations of crates, a storage building, volunteers and donations. Volunteers are needed to drive the AARF van to take dogs to other rescue groups. AARF also needs funds for the transporters to pay for gas. Concerned citizens can also sponsor a dog by making sure it has veterinary care, making it more appealing to potential rescues.
Contact AARF @www.aarf-tn.com/donate. The Cumberland County Animal Shelter is at 782 East Lane Road, (off Hwy. 127 South), Crossville, TN 38571. Phone 484-8525.