Grainger County battling feral dog problem
The Grainger County Humane Society is being overloaded with a growing problem, feral dogs.
According to volunteer Rocky Farr, the Humane Society has received multiple calls about feral animals in several places in the county, including the county landfill and the Veteran’s Overlook on Highway 25/70.
“What’s happening is people are dumping their dogs when they can’t provide for them anymore or they are leaving the animals behind to fend for themselves when they move,” Farr said.
Farr said the problem is the county has no official animal control nor does it have a shelter that can house the animals.
While the Humane Society is chartered, it isn’t a shelter. Animals the society cares for are kept in volunteer and foster homes. Because there is a shortage of volunteers and fosters able to care for the animals, there is little room for additional animals, Farr said.
Also feral animals are extremely hard to keep in a typical residence not set up to tame animials.
Farr, who also works with her daughter as a volunteer animal control officer for the county said there is a lack of cooperation with the county sheriff’s department to respond to calls about lost or feral animals because it’s not an endangering issue. If the sheriff doesn’t respond to the calls, neither can she.
The problem then becomes the limited window of time that the humane society has to try and save the animals from becoming feral.
Farr said most animals that are feral can’t be saved and have to be euthanized.
“Animals that have been out in the wild for awhile tend to fear humans because of poor treatment. Taking an animal in from being on its own can take months to tame. Even puppies can take a while to get them used to human interaction,” Farr said.
At the county landfill, Farr said wild dogs are mating with nearby residents’ pets and continuing to have litters of new feral dogs. There have been four litters in the last four months, Farr said.
Simple math says the problem could quickly spiral out of control.
Grainger County Mayor Mark Hipsher said the County Commission was made aware of the feral issue last year when the humane society attended a meeting.
According to Hipsher, money was allocated to the Sheriff’s Department last year toward a humane removal of the dogs at the landfill, but he was unaware if action had been taken.
Hipsher said he believed action failed when the county found that the humane society had been feeding the dogs at the landfill.
He said the humane society and the commission also discussed the possibility of streaming animals to other shelters in nearby counties, but the discussion died because the county lacks any additional funds to do so.
Farr said responsibility is the biggest issue surrounding the animal problem.
“We see tons of strays that were once pets. They know commands or have collars. Now they are on street. It happens daily,” Farr said.
Farr said the best remedy is a shelter, if one can be built. But Farr also knows how expensive that is.
“Even a small shelter would cost $100,000 a year to run, the donations just aren’t there for that kind of operation,” Farr said. “The humane society does fundraisers to continue to try to operate spay neuter clinics. As much as we appreciate every dime we get, it’s just not enough.”
The humane society largely uses public service announcements and community events to try and raise awareness on the importance of spaying and neutering animals to prevent overpopulation.
Farr said the puppies that are saved from feral dogs are typically sent to Northern states with better laws, lower stray population and a higher demand for stray pet adoptions.
Farr said before the puppies leave, they need health certificates, shots and a vet check costing about $100 a puppy.
The humane society fronts the bill, and volunteers drive and chip in on gas when not using an animal service.
Anyone who would like to become a foster parent or help by volunteering with the shelter can call 865-567-0050.
-From Staff Reports