By LeeAnn Cain / Staff Writer
Despite the tragic Nov. 29 fire that destroyed the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter, stray and abandoned animals still have a place to go thanks to the donations and support of the local community.
The animal shelter’s temporary building, leased at a reduced rate until the shelter finds a new spot to call home, is piled high with donated food, towels, cleaning supplies and other necessities for running an animal shelter. Monetary donations have helped keep things running, as well.
“We’ve had a great community outpouring of support and help,” Deana Myers, the animal shelter’s director, said.
Myers said that many members of the community have come by the animal shelter to show their support, dropped off supplies and given money to help the animal shelter remain open and rebuild. According to the president of the animal shelter’s board of directors, Mary-Ann Smyth, people have even donated the medications needed to keep pets healthy.
Although neither Smyth nor Myers had a specific amount of money people have given, Smyth said donations haven’t stopped with the local community. Counties and animal shelters all over Kentucky have helped the shelter. A few counties Smyth mentioned were Marion, Madison and Pike counties.
The animal shelter’s home state isn’t the only place reaching out to them. Smyth said they got a check from Birmingham, Ala. as well as donations from England and Canada.
“It’s amazing how wonderful people can be,” Smyth said.
According to Smyth, the main goal of the animal shelter right now is to find a permanent location. Myers said the shelter has a separate building fund to help with the rebuilding of the permanent shelter. This fund is through Forcht Bank and Hometown Bank, and donations can be made at these places to help the shelter find a new location.
Myers said the shelter is still trying to decide whether or not to rebuild from the ground up or find an existing building to convert to an animal shelter, but Smyth said the animal shelter’s board would be meeting soon to make a decision. Myers said the current building is only temporary, and is too small to serve as a permanent location. She went on to say that at its current size, the temporary shelter fills up almost daily.
Donations helped the shelter begin operating as soon as possible after the fire, Myers said, which has been invaluable for local animals. According to Myers, the community needs the shelter as much as the animals to keep unwanted strays off the streets.
Donations are still needed for the animal shelter; Smyth said continuing donations have been keeping the shelter running after the fire, as well as several grants. The Humane Society of the United States, Petfinder.com and Petsmart Charities have given the animal shelter grants to help rebuild, she said. She went on to say that often this money is earmarked for supplies to help care for the animals.
Despite all of the progress with getting the shelter back up and running, Smyth said that official investigations into the fire have not yielded a cause, though arson has been ruled out. Myers said she hadn’t realized how difficult surviving a fire was until the shelter burned down.
“The fire has given me a different perspective on what people go through,” Myers said.
Although the fire was a tragedy, Smyth believes the shelter has a good foundation for beginning the long process of rebuilding.
“I never figured we’d come this far the night of the fire,” Smyth said. “We’ve been very, very fortunate.”