Humane Educational Society
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Staff Photo by John Rawlston-- Dogs are kept in one of the kennel areas that are scheduled to be remodeled soon at the Humane Educational Society on North Highland Park Avenue. The society will lose funding from the city next year but will continue to operate at the same location.

A proposed new $13 million Humane Educational Society kennel moved closer to reality Monday after a Chattanooga planning panel gave approval to rezoning the site.

"It's another step in the right direction," said Bob Citrullo, the Society's executive director, after the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission endorsed the new zoning of the 6.8-acre tract.

The new facility is proposed for 4155 Randolph Circle near Highway 153 and Bonny Oaks Drive. If the rezoning receives approval from the City Council, the new kennel would replace the Society's aging location on North Highland Park Avenue, Citrullo said.

The Society director said it could be several years before a new 30,000- to 35,000-square-foot facility is constructed with the timing depending on fundraising that still must be done.

But, he said, the existing 28,000-square-foot facility has structural and other problems,

"It's so old," Citrullo said. "We spend entirely too much money trying to keep it together."

He said Hamilton County lets the Society use the existing Highland Park building, which is a former Chambliss Children's Home facility.

Citrullo said the building's foundation is moving.

"We don't want another Cheeburger Cheeburger," he said, referring to the century-old, two-story building near the Tennessee Aquarium that partially collapsed on itself a month or so ago.

While no one spoke in opposition to the planned project, a neighboring landowner had several questions about potential noise and lighting issues.

Ralph Decicco said there are nine townhouses already on his parcel, with plans for 63 in all.

"I'm not in opposition," he said. "I use their facility. I'm a pro-Humane Society person. But there are considerations we're concerned about."

One issue raised in a letter from City Councilman Russell Gilbert about potential conditions added to the Planning Commission's decision had to do with the cremation of animals.

Citrullo said there'd be no so-called smokestack cremation.

"He's talking about flame, traditional cremation. We want to stay away from that. There have been advances which are less offensive as far as public opinion," he said.

Citrullo said another cremation procedure requires no flames and there are no emissions.

"Everything is neutralized," he said. "It wouldn't be offensive to the community."

Decicco also said Randolph Circle is in "huge disrepair."

"Cars can get damaged," he said. "There has got to be work done on the roadway or it will really be a disaster."

Citrullo agreed the road is "very poor through there."

Concerning lighting from the kennel, he said that would be placed inward. Also, there would be natural treeline barriers left in place.

In terms of noise, no animals would be left outside at night, Citrullo said.

The Planning Commission staff had recommended denying the Society's original request to rezone the Randolph Circle land from A-1 urban agricultural zone to C-2 convenience commercial zone. But a proposal to rezone about a quarter of the land R-1 and the remainder C-2 received approval.

Citrullo said the R-1 parcel wouldn't be used to build on, but rather for exercising the animals.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.

Updated at 10:40 p.m. with additional information.