Tennessee editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
Johnson City Press on state animal cruelty law:
Dogs are social creatures, but sadly some pet owners don’t treat them that way. That’s why it’s important for local animal control officials to identify tethered outdoor dogs and make sure they have sufficient housing and bedding for winter.
Chaining a dog to a tree is a very poor way of caring for that animal. The fact is severe behavioral problems are created when dogs are forced to endure weather extremes at the end of a few feet of chain.
Unchainyourdog.org, a website that outlines the cruelty and behavioral problems created by keeping dogs on a chain, says we humans “have many forms of entertainment: movies, music, friends. Your dog only has you. If you can’t give a dog a good life, should you have one?”
Aggression and other behavioral problems caused by chaining dogs have prompted a number of communities to ban the practice. The city of Asheville, N.C., has passed an ordinance that prohibits the tethering of dogs. The measure is aimed at dogs who spend most of their lives tied to posts, stakes or trees.
ChainFree Asheville, an organization that pushed for the new rule, offers to build fences for dog owners who can’t afford them. Johnson City could certainly benefit from an organization like ChainFree Asheville.
In 2008, Johnson City commissioners declined to take action on a proposal from the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Control officials to ban the chaining of dogs inside the city limits.
Commissioners were told by their legal staff the city does not have the authority to approve such a ban because it would exceed the state’s own animal cruelty laws. In short, a bad state law pre-empts sensible local control.
It’s time for state legislators to remove this reprehensible prohibition. We encourage local elected leaders, animal shelter officials and animal humane organizations to speak to our local lawmakers about changing the law.
And while they are addressing animal welfare issues, Tennessee lawmakers should finally do something about closing down the so-called “puppy mills” that are an embarrassment to our state. Animal welfare activists say dogs born into large puppy farms often suffer from disease, neglect or abuse.
Many of these animals end up abandoned in local animal shelters. And it’s usually up to local animal control officials to clean up after busted puppy farms. In both cases, local taxpayers are the ones bearing the costs.
Kingsport Times-News on a partnership to merge a county’s animal control and shelter operations with cities:
It’s a shame Sullivan County has completely backed out of an agreement to merge animal control and shelter operations with its cities. The savings from efficiencies would have benefited taxpayers.
But it’s understandable, given an error in judgment by the combined agency to place its sole shelter in Kingsport rather than a more central location closer to Blountville. That decision doomed the joint effort known as PETworks, created in 2011 as a partnership with the county, Kingsport and Bluff City.
When PETworks announced plans to construct a new facility to replace the two currently used — one in Kingsport and the other in Blountville — it looked like the longstanding issue of spotty animal control had been solved. The county kicked in $75,000 to help purchase the property on Highway 11-W on the east end of Kingsport.
But commissioners from the eastern half of the county stepped up to question the logistics of a single countywide shelter located at the county’s western end, a long trip for folks living in Bristol or Bluff City. Commissioners questioned whether residents would make such a trip, and ultimately Bristol, which had indicated it was willing finally to join the partnership, decided to withdraw.
And now Sullivan County has followed suit.
Termination of the partnership leaves Kingsport in sole control of the new site, which will rely on donations to help build. Members of the board have indicated the group will move forward with scaled-back plans for the new facility on 11-W, and some commissioners said the county might reconsider at some point in the future and rejoin the partnership.
But as of Jan. 1, the animal shelter in Blountville will be operated by Sullivan County. There already have been two workers there being funded by the county. County Mayor Richard Venable said the county will develop a plan over the next few weeks to be ready to staff the facility fully by Jan. 1. And there’s about $180,000 in the county’s current budget that would have gone to SBK/PETworks to pay for the county’s portion of funding for the partnership between Jan. 1 and June 30. Now, that money can be directed to the county’s effort to operate its own shelter in Blountville.
Whatever happens going forward, let’s hope county residents continue to be well-served by separate organizations and our animal friends don’t suffer because of it.
Johnson City Press on public funds to Boone Lake:
Has the Washington County Commission’s decision last week to allocate $20,220 in one-time funds to keep the Washington County Lake Association’s clean-up crew working opened the door to similar requests from other neighborhood associations?
No wait, that couldn’t possibly be the case because the Boone Lake say’s it’s not a neighborhood association. We’ll tackle that claim in a second, but first let’s address the fact Washington County has agreed to fund work that has largely been covered by membership dues to the association.
Now, it’s taxpayers in Washington and Sullivan counties who are being asked to fund the three-person crew. Johnson City commissioners didn’t bat a eye last month when they agreed to allocate $9,780 to the Boone Lake Association.
Next up are Sullivan County commissioners, who are being asked to contribute $34,000 to the clean-up efforts.
Proponents of the funding said the money local governments have appropriated for the clean-up work comes from a Tennessee Valley Authority Impact Fee, which is paid to counties and municipalities where the federal utility is conducting significant construction projects or activity that burden the local infrastructure.
Officials with the Boone Lake Association say the group’s membership numbers have dropped from 650 members in 2013 to 220 this year as the TVA continues its work to repair the dam on Boone Lake.
Which gets us back to the point that association officials have long argued — their organization is not a typical homeowners association. Instead, they say it is a nonprofit association that seeks to keep Boone Lake free from trash and water pollution.
Fair enough, but despite how you phrase it, the group is being subsidized by public funds that could be going to other equally worthwhile projects (erosion control and wastewater runoff are just two underfunded needs that we can think of).
We commend Washington County Commissioner Greg Matherly for proposing a more palatable long-term solution for keeping Boone Lake clean. Matherly, the chairman of the commission, convinced his colleagues to authorize the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (where Matherly also happens to work) to apply for a Tennessee Department of Transportation litter grant that could be used by the association for its clean-up crew.
Grant recipients are awarded a two-year contract worth between $20,000 and $200,000, and it does not require a local match (which makes the grant even more appealing). Eligible projects include multi-jurisdictional collaborations like the Boone Lake clean-up.
The deadline to file the grant application is Jan. 31, so let’s get the paperwork started.