The reality of dogs and cats in rural Tennessee

I don’t often talk about the reality of the situation for dogs and cats in rural Tennessee where our shelter is.  Our focus is horses, but we cannot turn a blind eye to the huge problem facing dogs and cats in our community and throughout the rural parts of Tennessee.  There is no animal services in the county, or the surrounding counties (except for one) where we are.  Owners of dogs and cats, and people who find strays, have no options at all.   Countless dogs and cats are dumped on the roads because there is no animal shelters available to take dogs and cats.  In 1 day last week I took a number of calls regarding animals in need.  The first call was someone desperately trying to find their Chihuahua.  All I could tell her was if I got a call about him, I would let her know.  Stray and dumped dogs are so common that when someone finds one, they don’t bother reporting it because there is no one to report it too.  The next call I got was from a man that said an aggressive stray dog came into his back yard, the family retreated into their house, the stray dog broke into their house and attacked their pet dog.  He said “There is blood all over the floor, and the aggressive dog won’t leave the house.”  All I could do was tell him to call the sheriff.  The next call was from an elderly lady who said her next door neighbors had moved out 2 weeks before and left the dogs.  When they realized they were over there, they started taking food and water to them, and since they were in city limits, they called the city.  A building inspector came out and said he would address the problem and mow the grass.  The elderly woman feared the dogs would just be destroyed.  It’s heart wrenching getting these calls, knowing there is nothing you can do. We don’t have the funds to build a facility to help cats and dogs.  There is a group that runs a humane society for dogs only out of their home in our area, but they are filled and refer most calls to us.  They will not deal with cats under any situation, and we get a lot of calls on cats.  We have tried to work with people to resolve the situation, but I found myself on the road to go rescue some cats with a situation that was so desperate I couldn’t say no.

The owner had passed away awhile ago, and her daughter was unable to find anywhere for the cats to go, so they had been living in the house for over 6 months.  She would take food and water to the cats, and she kept it climate controlled as long as she could afford the electric bill, but the power was shut off to the house and it was going up for auction soon.  She called, crying, pleading for help.  When I arrived at the house there was piles of trash outside.

Inside the stench was overwhelming.  There was cat feces everywhere, urine in the carpet, and the whole place was a horrific mess.  The windows were closed, and it was hot, humid and sticky.  The cats were semi-feral in the house, and it took a long time to find their hiding places.

The cats mostly hid in the back of a closet, piled high with clothes and debris.

One by one I managed to catch the cats and take them to the waiting cage.

The cats are all related, and thankfully had been spayed, thanks to a spay/neuter program in Tennessee.

As the owner filled out the paperwork, she was crying and tears were falling on the paperwork.  She said she loves animals so much and she was devastated she couldn’t do something sooner.  There were no options, what was she to do?  Take them out and dump them on the side of the road like so many do?  I was happy to help, but I was really happy to be out of the house breathing fresh air again.

On the drive back to the shelter my mind was whirling.  There needs to be a safe place for animals to be surrendered here in rural Tennessee.  This madness has got to stop!  The things I have seen in this rural area are maddening and heart wrenching, leaving me feeling so helpless.

The animals that we have tried to help passed through my mind.  Emaciated dogs dumped along the road.  Starving with no one to care for them.  No safe place for them to be.  Dumped because their owners do not care about them.  So many animals are not dumped, they’re just shot in the back yard when their owner cannot keep them anymore.  As horrible as it is, it’s more merciful than turning a domesticated animal out to starve or be eaten by wild predators.  I have been told about entire litters of puppies who have been shot because their owner couldn’t find homes for them, and they didn’t want to dump them.

The desperate looks I see in their faces, pleading for help, will haunt me for life.  It is so wrong, when there are thousands of compassionate people who would never turn a blind eye to helping animals.  I wish those people could see what I see on an almost daily basis.  My heart breaks.

When I arrived at our horse shelter, I did a video before getting the cats settled into one of our barns.  This situation is easily fixed.  With your help, we can build a dog and cat shelter that will accept any dog and cat that needs help.  Our focus is, and always will be, horses, but how can we pretend this isn’t happening? To watch the video, click here.

I know I am going to ask for the impossible, but I don’t know what else to do.  Constructing a dog and cat shelter and get it operational will cost $65,000.  Some of our Facebook posts go viral and reach 150,000 people or more.  If everyone donated even just $1, we would have the funds for this shelter overnight.  Let’s make that happen!  The only way it will happen is if people just like you donate, and share.  We have set up a GoFundMe account to start fundraising for the shelter.  It will be a shelter that will accept any dog or cat in need, saving them from being shot, dumped, abandoned, or simply left locked in a house or their kennel when their family moves away.  Together we can make this happen!