By Kendal Groner
Several facility improvements are on the horizon for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter. Kevin King, director of the shelter, has new design ideas for the communal cat room, plans to build an addition to the shelter and expand the outdoor run space for dogs.
Currently, the shelter has two separated communal cat rooms that give the cats extra space to roam and provide extra socialization opportunities for both the cats and potential adopters.
“People come to get cats from us because of those communal rooms,” Kind said. “That way people already know if a cat gets along with another cat and they get the chance to interact with them.”
However, King also said he would like to revamp both of the rooms and give the cats more opportunities to engage in their natural feline behaviors, such as lounging and climbing.
“We’re going to put a door in between both of the cat rooms and we’re going to repaint everything a light color,” King explained.
King imagines having square boxes with cat beds in them staggered in the corner and lining the walls with ladder type structures for the cats to climb on.
“We talked about drilling holes through the walls and possibly putting cat doors through the bottom to connect the two rooms because everyone that’s in the room will be spayed or neutered, so there’s no concern about repopulating,” said King.
He also envisions floating beds on the walls for the cats to lay in, as well as additional climbing structures cascading from the ceiling.
“I think it’s going to make the shelter look really good and it will be nice once we get everything set up,” he said. “That’s just the first half of our plans for the cats. Once we get that done, we’re going to move onto another project.”
Once the communal cat room has been updated, King said he would like to build an addition onto the shelter near the outside drop boxes to create a separate space for all of the cats.
“That way we can have them all in one area,” he said. “The community cat room will then become an adoption room, so if the weather’s bad or someone wants to see a cat or see how a dog does in a sitting on the couch type of setting, the adoption room will give them the chance to do that.”
Once the items from the two community cat rooms have been transferred over to the new outside addition, one of the rooms can be utilized as a small dog area – a space King said is needed to house the smaller breeds away from the larger dogs.
“The back quarantine area, where some cats are kept, that will become an exam room where I can hopefully get vets to volunteer their time and come to examine our animals once a month or as needed,” said King.
To prevent sickness and contamination, King said he will be putting up separate air systems between the new cat room and the quarantine area.
“A lot of shelters, when they were built, everyone is on the same air system and everything just spreads,” he said.
The shelter has an outside run area for the dogs to get exercise, something King said is crucial for any dog’s welfare and a large contributing factor in their demeanor. However, he wants to expand the grassy parts of the area and eliminate unneeded concrete.
“I want to rip up the pen in front of our shed and the concrete on down through the dog run and turn that into more of a play area,” King said. “What’s the point of having a bunch of concrete?”
King said originally the purpose of having the concrete that runs through the outside space for the dogs was to allow people to drive by and see the animals at night.
“We keep everything locked at night, so there’s really no reason to have a road running through our yard,” he said.
On the other side of the dog run, King said Cable’s Fencing out of Elizabethton is donating another run to the shelter at no charge. Since the shelter owns the grassy area that backs up to Kiwanis Park, Kevin said he is toying with the idea of creating somewhat of an agility course for the dogs.
“I really want to make this a fun place,” King said. “I’d like to have all of this done within a year, but it’s all dependant on budgeting, fundraising and finding someone to do the work.”
After taking on the role of director about six months ago, King is optimistic about the future of the shelter. Thanks to additional adoption events and an increased presence on social media, the shelter adoption numbers continue to improve.
“The adoptions have been better than ever before,” he said. “I think we did more adoptions in three months than in all of last year.”
Several animals have recently been placed in foster homes and the shelter is currently housing around 23 dogs and 70 cats, including kittens. Anyone who wishes to foster an animal is encouraged to stop by the shelter and fill out an application.
“People can foster with the intent to adopt to see if an animal will work for your situation and then there are others who want to foster just to get the animals out of the shelter and help us find them a home,” King said.
Volunteers are always welcome at the shelter and needed for a variety of activities such as cleaning, playing with the animals, dog walking and helping with adoption events. Every other Saturday the shelter attends an adoption event at PetSmart in Johnson City. There is also an upcoming adoption event called Petworks that will be held in Kingsport on July 7.
The Unicoi County Animal Shelter is located at 185 N. Industrial Drive in Erwin and can be reached at 743-3071.