Much has been made about Knoxville’s bid to become the nation’s “pet-friendliest” city. One may ask “how’s that working so far?” The answer may surprise. At first blush, given the enormous numbers of animals taken in area shelters (and the subsequent amount euthanized) our “scruffy little city” doesn’t appear to be all too friendly to our furry four-legged friends. A deeper look offers some glimmers of hope, however, especially for dogs.
In Knoxville and Knox County, thanks to generous support from the Aslan Foundation, over 20,000 dogs and cats have been spayed or neutered through Young-Williams Animal Center’s no-cost Spay Shuttle Program since its 2007 inception. This initially resulted in a decline of incoming puppies at Young-Williams, and since has been followed by an overall population decline. In addition, thanks to the generosity of the Aslan Foundation and Randy and Jenny Boyd, The Young-Williams Animal Village is open at 6400 Kingston Pike. It provides additional adoption space and a clinic that is hoped to boost annual spay/neuter numbers by providing thousands more low-cost surgeries. It also houses Petsafe Doggie Day Camp and the local Invisible Fence dealer. With this heavy-lifting done, area citizens are encouraged to support the businesses, adopt pets from one of the Young-Williams locations, and spay and neuter all their pets.
In addition, the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley promotes responsible pet ownership with a variety of events throughout the year such as the popular Bark in the Park, as well as operates an adoption facility and low-cost spay/neuter clinic in a beautifully renovated building on Bearden Hill. A multitude of non-profit species and breed-specific rescue groups labor tirelessly to find new homes for unwanted animals in the community, as well.
Another exciting development signaling Knoxville is headed in the right direction is the creation of area dog parks. Public-private efforts between Boyd’s PetSafe and both the city and county, public dog parks are a visible symbol of our community’s support of responsible pet ownership. With five already open around town along with one in the county, they provide much-needed green space for the area’s growing population of dogs.
Not to be outdone, the Tennessee Legislature decided to allow local eateries with outdoor dining space to apply for permits to allow leashed dogs on their premises. Following the example of many other states and municipalities, state and local lawmakers are striving to make more public spaces accessible to our canine friends.
Efforts also are underway to unify city and county animal ordinances for the benefit of citizens and law enforcement, and several private groups are working to speak for those that have no voices on the local and state level.
The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine – in addition to providing comprehensive health care resources – sponsors the CAIT (Companion Animal Initiative of Tennessee) program, which is dedicated to improving the lives of companion animals through education, advocacy, and spay/neuter support.
Finally, pet-themed retail stores such as Agri Feed Pet Supply, Pet Supplies Plus and Petsmart create expected social opportunities for dogs and their owners, while other human-oriented retailers like Mast General Store and most merchants on Market Square allow well-behaved pooches to accompany their people while they shop.
What does all this mean? Well, for one, people in our neck of the woods really love their dogs. It also means, however, that the infrastructure is now in place for all of us dog-lovers to walk the walk by being responsible users of all that is available to us. By supporting local adoption and spay/neuter efforts, keeping our dogs leashed and well-behaved, picking up our pets’ waste, and being respectful of non-dog lovers, we can create an environment of mutual respect where all citizens (human and canine) can enjoy what this wonderful area has to offer.
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