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City animal control helps dogs, cats thrive

By DAVID MELSON - dmelson@t-g.com
Posted 8/2/22

Want a dog? Shelbyville Animal Care and Control can help.

As of last week the facility had 23 dogs available for adoption — an unusually high number, said Shelbyville Animal Control …

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City animal control helps dogs, cats thrive

Want a dog? Shelbyville Animal Care and Control can help.
As of last week the facility had 23 dogs available for adoption — an unusually high number, said Shelbyville Animal Control Supervisor Mariah Teal.
“We average 12 to 20 dogs,” Teal said.
“Three of the dogs came with collars,” Teal said, indicating they do — or did — have owners.
Most of the dogs are kept in the recently-constructed newer portion of the facility. A few that need closer attention stay in older kennels near the office.
Fewer cats are picked up, Teal said. The facility has 11 kennels for cats. Two were occupied last week, both by kittens.
“We’ve been good lately with cat adoptions, not so much with dogs,” Teal said. ”I attribute it to being unable to afford a dog, and they’re harder to take care of. A lot of our dogs right now are medium to large size dogs.”
Animal Control partners with PetSmart, which keeps some of the city’s adoptables. Teal says larger dogs sometimes attract few potential owners.
“If a dog is not adoptable New Destiny Dog Rescue takes them to New Jersey,” Teal said. “That particular location is because dog breeding rules are stricter there.”
Little abuse locally
There’s not a lot of animal abuse being reported in Shelbyville.
“I see a lot more neglect than abuse of animals,” Teal said. “No more than an average of 5 cases a year reach the severity of ‘animal cruelty.’ More are cases of neglect such as lack of food or inadequate shelter.”
A recent example, Teal said, involved an owner who was unable to explain why his dog was underweight. She mentioned another case where one dog was underweight and the owner’s other dog wasn’t. That owner was “uncooperative,” Teal said.
“Almost every time I talk to someone, they show an attitude,” Teal said. “Only 5 to 10 percent of people are cooperative.”
Shelbyville Police Department becomes involved when more severe reports are received of situations involving animals. Deputy Chief Brian Crews serves as Director of Animal Control. Teal supervises day-to-day operations and is grounds supervisor over the animal control facility. Her husband, Tracy Teal, is a Shelbyville police officer.
“We assess the situation and call a police officer if needed,” Mariah Teal said. “We handle the investigative part, SPD does the actual report if one is needed.”
Animal control officers have badges on their shirts but do not have the same enforcement powers as trained police officers.
Enforcement is based on how owners address warnings received, Teal said. Police are usually involved only on a “low level” if they don’t comply.
“We conduct followups and most of them go well,” Teal said. “Sometimes I wish people would be more responsible for their pets. We try to educate the public about good pet owner responsibility.”
A few reports of large numbers of animals in homes — 40 or more in a couple of cases — were investigated in Shelbyville a few years ago, but Teal hasn’t encountered anything similar.
“There’s not a lot of hoarding here,” Teal said. She knows of a few cases where people keep up 6 to 8 dogs in their homes, but they’re receiving good care.
Teal has noticed a slow rise in the number of animals locally as the Shelbyville area’s population increases.
Community support
Teal appreciates the support shown by Shelbyville residents and leaders.
“The community has been very supportive in donating funds and food, homemade blankets from Comfort for Critters, and you can donate to the local shelter through PetSense,” Teal said. “Some volunteer to clean the facility, do dishes, every year a few TNPromise students work their hours here.”
Tennessee Promise (known as TNPromise) grants free tuition to state community colleges in return for volunteer work by high school seniors.
“Whenever we ask for things, the city complies if they see the need,” Teal said. Among the requests granted was a third full-time Animal Control officer.
Shelbyville now has three full-time and one part-time Animal Control officer. Corey Prater is in training as a new officer
“I like it here.  I like the people. I reach out to the community and they help,” Teal said.