Steve Phipps, the founder and president of the Blount County Humane Society (BCHS), said, “We’ve always been above 90 percent, which is the benchmark for saying that you’re ‘no kill.’ … Ninety percent is just a goal. There’s no reason why you can’t do 96, 97, 98, 99 and even 100 percent. And so we take that seriously. Every dog and cat is an individual.”
Eddie King, the director of the Maryville animal shelter, said, “When I first started doing this  years ago … we [were] doing 3,500 to 4,000 a year, coming into the shelter. I’d say … maybe 95 or 90 [percent] of that was being put to sleep. Now if you can imagine that’s what we did everyday here first thing in the mornings. Now fast forward to 2015, we’re not doing anything, and it’s thanks to the Blount County Humane Society.”
Phipps said, “Maryville, Tenn., is the safest community for shelter pets in America today – right now. For 2014, we have a 100 percent save rate.”
BCHS collaborates with the Maryville animal shelter to ensure that all of the animals that enter the shelter are released alive. The Shelter Pet Project team takes photos of any new animals received by the shelter to put on the BCHS Facebook page.
King said, “It’s been a 100 percent blessing because, [for] everything that comes in here, Steve’s group comes in here, takes pictures, information, and it goes automatically that day onto Facebook. And I can’t tell you how many times we found the owner [or] we’ve got an adoption because it’s on Facebook.”
After Phipps created the BCHS in 2003, he was the director of a low-cost spay/neuter clinic but learned specific details of the No Kill Movement when he read ‘Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America’ by Nathan Winograd.
He said, “Changed my whole perspective. Changed my life as it has many people’s as far as their role in animal protection.
“It opened my eyes, and I was like, ‘Well, there aren’t too many pets for the homes that we have in America. As a matter of fact, we have a surplus of homes, and the breakdown is we don’t have a pet overpopulation.’ We have shelter overcrowding due to poor shelter performance. …”
Phipps also started the national No Kill Revolution organization in 2009, to promote the principles and strategies of Winograd’s no kill model of shelter management.
He said, “The moral of the story is pretty much any dog can be rehabilitated to go into a family if you choose the family correctly and with much care. We believe in the no kill movement that pretty much any dog can be rehabilitated, and, if they can’t be, we still have a moral obligation not to kill that dog. And that’s where sanctuary comes in. That’s why it’s so important for us to have a sanctuary for dogs.”
Since the BCHS started working directly with Maryville Animal Control, Police Chief Tony Crisp has initiated several changes on his own.
King said, “Back in the day, it was three days if a stray animal came in, five days if it had a tag on it – or if we knew who it was, we’d hold it five days. Chief stepped up and says, ‘We’re going to do a 20-day hold for all animals. Period.’
“It’s been great. And, again, this really couldn’t take place without the help of Steve Phipps and his group. Because after that 20 days is up, they step in, and they find a home.”
Phipps said, “When we first started, we were working with the domestic dogs and cats. Our secret ambition was to save the feral cats because that’s part of the no kill model. … And so [the chief] approached us again. We had it in the plans to approach them, but they beat us to the punch. They said, ‘We’ll let you have the feral cats under one condition. You cannot release them back into the city limits.’
“And so we started a barn cat program, which we studied, and learned that it was the next best step.”
In the barn cat program, BCHS finds farmers who want to control rodents in an Eco-friendly way. The humane society has the feral cats spayed or neutered. They place the cats in barns in the surrounding areas of the city in kennels for two weeks to acclimate them to their surroundings.
Phipps said, “We’ve had a really good rate of feral cats staying there. We’ve maybe had five that owners say just took off to parts unknown and never saw them again. But they’re feral cats. They know how to survive, and now they can’t reproduce. So we feel like that’s the model that works for us here.”
Phipps and King believe that the Maryville program is one that can be adopted anywhere in Tennessee.
“Go out there an talk with your shelter,” said Phipps, “and, if they’ll work with you, work with them with the ultimate goal – and this can happen overnight – it’s not a five-year program though I see a lot of communities say, ‘Well, seven years down the road we’re going to be ‘no kill.’
“That’s a cop out. You can achieve no kill in one year or less if you’re serious. And the reason I say that is because it’s been done over and over. There are over 250 communities in America now that have no kill shelters.
Phipps said, “In Cumberland County, it can happen. We’re proof that it can happen, so take heart. Get out there and do the things that it takes.”
A Time 4 Paws, a non-profit organization located in Crossville, Tenn., also wants to establish a long-term community partnership with the Cumberland County animal shelter in order to prevent the killing of homeless animals. The group needs volunteers in a variety of areas to make this plan a reality. For more information, contact AT4P at 931-456-6906, at email@example.com or on Facebook.