Confusion, questions raised over future of Newport Animal Shelter

NEWPORT (WATE) – Many in Cocke County are wrestling with confusion and questions when it comes to the animal shelter. The problem boils down to money.

Currently the shelter is trying to adopt out and send as many cats and dogs to rescue as possible over the next month. At the same time, Newport city leaders are building a shelter of their own downtown because they’ve broken ties with the shelter.

“I’d been reading up on it, but I really do hate it. I do,” said Karen Sisk from Bridgeport.

Friends of the Animal Shelter and Humane Society of Newport own the building and they contribute a portion of the six-figure budget. After donations, charges and revenue are added together, the city of Newport pays what’s left.

City administrator James Finchum says what the city is paying, goes up every year.

“So we looked at scaling back the operation to a smaller operation and trying to get a handle on how much tax payer dollars were being put into the shelter.”

“We’re a 501(c)3. We operate on a shoe-string budget. We do everything we can to not have waste,” said Deborah Hilton with Friends of the Animal Shelter and Humane Society of Newport.

The shelter is not closing July 1, but the city is ending their lease. For days, animals have been adopted out of the shelter or sent to rescue groups. Currently there are 36 dogs, three cats, and a potbellied pig that are adoptable.

“The animals are welcome to stay and we will take care of them,” said Hilton.

“Number one, we didn’t want to close the shelter; we were evicted. And number two, we’re not going to kill any animal if we can help it,” said Finchum.

The city is creating a temporary shelter at 219 Main Street, where they say they’ll be able to house 40 to 60 cats and dogs.

“That’s a three month capacity. That gives us three months to find a way to rotate them out of there, find their owners, find a home, something and that’s our goal,” said Finchum.

While city and shelter leaders work on a solution, Hilton says there’s something anyone can do.

“They can step up and foster, come in and fill out a foster application.”

Friends of the Animal Shelter and Humane Society of Newport plan to meet with Cocke County commissioners, as well as Newport city leaders, over the coming weeks to form a long-term plan and try to create a partnership.

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