The McKamey Animal Center has been in existence less than a year and, during that time there has been unending speculation about all facets of the Center. Those of us involved with McKamey would like to share with you the facts, hopefully diffusing the rumor and innuendo that has been so rampant.
Plans for The Center began under the Kinsey administration and came to fruition with the Littlefield administration. It was built to be the public shelter to serve the City of Chattanooga. The designation "public shelter" is important because it means that we cannot be a no-kill shelter, and despite the rumor, the Animal Care Trust (ACT) has never represented McKamey as no-kill. Any animal facility that accepts taxpayer money for its services cannot, by definition, be a no-kill shelter. The McKamey Center is the shelter of record for the city, HES is the same for Hamilton County and some municipalities. Both receive the majority of their revenue from the government.
The Center's goal has always been to eventually become "low-kill," a true shelter of last resort. How quickly that goal is met is dependent upon how supportive the community is in recognizing the importance of spaying and neutering their animals, accepting the responsibilities that come with pet ownership, and supporting the knowledge that as a nation we created this overpopulation problem and it is each community's responsibility to help solve it. No shelter can solve the problem of over-population in a vacuum... it is a nation-wide problem requiring community-wide cooperation and education. The same logic and support of the common goals applies as we look to strengthening existing animal laws and enforcement as a way to curb uncontrolled population growth.
The rumor is that McKamey receives twice the money from the city contract than HES received when HES held the contract. The fact is that we receive the same amount monthly and yearly for housing the city's animals as HES did when they held the city's contract.
The confusion among the public sector regarding funding probably lies in the fact that, unlike HES, the Center was also asked to incorporate the Police Department's Animal Services Division under its umbrella. For years the city's animal control responsibility fluctuated between Neighborhood Services and the Police Department. When ACT was awarded the contract for the city's animal control and sheltering, the city consolidated the HES funding for sheltering and the Police Department personnel costs for animal control. That total amount of money ($92,881.00 monthly or $1,114,572.00 annually) was allocated to ACT to fund the operation of the consolidated Center.
The Center inherited a huge animal problem as evidenced by the first week of operation when over 800 animals were surrendered to the Center whose maximum capacity was 500 animals. People had been waiting for months for the Center to open so they could surrender animals to a place where they felt they would have the best opportunity to find another home. Being overwhelmed with this many animals had a significant impact on finances, services, and staff. Dedicated board and staff members are working hard to bring operations and finances back in line and they are succeeding.
Chattanooga's citizens should be proud to have had the kind of leadership in place, from the Mayor's office down to the many volunteers, which recognized the great need for a designated city shelter and made it a reality.
Like all shelters across the country, the Center has been impacted by the economy, but unlike the rumor, we are not in danger of closing. Unlike the rumors, we do not have a big endowment, nor a hefty bank account, but rather we face a very spare budget each month. We are encouraged to see our budget supplemented by the generosity of the many dedicated staff members, volunteers, donors, foster homes, rescuers, and supporters that make our job easier. They have chosen to be part of the solution, and we are grateful to them.
We invite and challenge any detractors or those with questions to visit the Center and see where and how your tax dollars are spent. Before you engage in rumor, become informed. Before you tear down, think how you can build up. We believe once you look beyond the rumors you will come away with a different view of the work of the McKamey Animal Center.