By AMANDA OSWALT
A desperate need and a love for animals facilitated the call to action that was needed. When you walk through the doors of the Mt. Juliet Animal Shelter your first impression is that you have not entered your typical shelter. That’s just the way Director Keith Youman and the staff want you to feel. The emphasis is on providing a bright and clean environment for the dogs and cats that reside there. Sgt. Keith Youman states, “We feel taking a different approach has been the key to our success. And that striving to be the best keeps the adoption rates up. We didn’t want to have a defeatist attitude, we wanted to be different. Don’t accept it, change it!
The Animal Shelter has an open door policy. They are space based and no kill. This means they only euthenize if the animal is too severely injured or cannot be safely adopted. Unlike other shelters that euthenize unadopted animals after 3 days, they keep animals for months. The adoptions are nationwide, with more coming from outside the city, but still a lot remaining locally.
The facility includes 32 kennels, over 30 cages, and can house approximately 100 animals. There are animal viewing rooms, pet familiarization rooms, an on-site grooming area and a clinic, in addition to the kennel area and 1,000 square feet outside dog run.
The premiere state of the art animal control center opened its doors in Mt. Juliet in 2008. As the population of city residents grew so did the animal population. Since opening, 711 animals have been adopted. That is the highest number in the city to date. News of the shelter’s success first surfaced Black Friday 2009 when all 42 pets were adopted in one day, due to waived adoption fees normally set at $75.
The shelter was founded by Sgt. Keith Youman who is a 5-year veteran of the Mt. Juliet Police Department. Originally from Nashville, he moved to Mt. Juliet in 2001. After years of research and lobbying with the City of Mt. Juliet, the much-needed shelter was approved. This was brought about by the excessive number of calls Sgt. Youman received from city residents, who needed a place that was closer than Lebanon to bring unwanted animals.
He first opened his case in 2006. In spring of 2008 he received a benefit fund raised in part by Bob Parks Realty. Shortly after he hired a contractor to start construction. After which he hired the first of four animal control officers to run the facility. Dawn Ambrose & Jill Hart come from extensive animal rescue backgrounds. Marty Potts and John Mullins specialize in animal control.
Youman stressed the importance of keeping their name out there and the dependence on their volunteers to keep things running smoothly. Winter is generally a slower adoption time with 10-15 a week and 15- 20 a week in the summer. They start to hold their adoption fairs run by volunteers 2-3 times a month at local businesses, parks and schools. In fact they are the only shelter in the state to conduct adoption fairs. They just started a new program where volunteers bring dogs to meet the elderly. Future plans include educational programs to teach kids about animal care and spay/neutering. They would like to hold a benefit concert one day. The goal is to keep all funds raised locally going directly to the shelter and not through the city.
Volunteer Coordinator Pastor Jon Gray has lived in Mt. Juliet for 11 years where he is a pastoral counselor at the Nazerene Covenant Fellowship. Before that he pastored in Baltimore for 40 years. He worked with the shelter since May of 2009 as a volunteer before being asked by the city to become the coordinator. The shelter has 350 volunteers. Jon Gray says “What makes a great volunteer
is someone who has a love for animals first and foremost. Commitment, loyalty, follows directions, plays team ball, and focuses on animals.” Volunteers are rewarded when they commit to 100 hours of service. The staff selects a volunteer of the month. The winner receives a gift card, parking space, certificate or plaque at the monthly luncheon hosted by the city.
Applications to volunteer are available on their website in addition to the shelter wish list and other fundraising opportunities. Go to www.cityofmtjuliet.org click on the “shelter” tab. Visit www.petfinder.com for a directory of animals available for adoption across the U.S.
Animals need our love and they give back that love u n c o n d i t i o n a l l y. They depend on us. They don’t have a voice to tell us when they hurt. They were here before us and it is our moral duty to care for them. Volunteering is a way to give back to the community.
The City of Mt. Juliet Animal Shelter nurtures and loves the animals back to health and gets them ready to be adopted. They bond with the animals and it is their greatest joy to see them find their forever home.
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The Mt. Juliet Animal Shelter is located at 115 Industrial Drive in Mt. Juliet. Call 773-5533 for more information. Shelter hours are Monday-Sunday 10am-6pm closed on Wednesdays.
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