Animal Shelter Overrun Following July 4

Some animals just can’t catch a break, especially this time of year.

As June turns to July and summer heats up, nervous dogs like my Iniesta have to contend with both thunderstorms and fireworks, oftentimes for days on end. Eight years ago, when she still belonged to my son and his wife, Iniesta jumped her backyard fence on July 4 and was gone for more than a week. Since then, I’ve been super-protective of her before and after Independence Day.

That’s not true of all pet owners. Some don’t anticipate that their animals will be frightened by weather or fireworks and don’t take precautions to keep them from running off. To compound the problem, many owners don’t check with the Cookeville/Putnam County Animal Shelter to see if a missing pet might be there.

“Historically, the Fourth of July is not a good time for pets,” shelter director Jennifer Hutchinson-Tracy told me. “Animals who aren’t kept securely indoors may bolt and run, sometimes for miles. Sadly, a large number of them are never re-united with their owners.”

If a dog or cat is lucky, animal control officers will pick it up and take it to the shelter. And here’s the thing pet owners really need to know. State law dictates that any animal in the custody of a shelter for more than three business days becomes the property of the shelter and is eligible for adoption. To get Fido or Miss Kitty back, you’ll have to pay an adoption fee and also—if your animal hasn’t been spayed or neutered—the charge for having that procedure done. That’s assuming your pet hasn’t already been adopted by a new family. Then things can really get complicated.

I spoke with Mendy Sisco, a long-time volunteer at our shelter, last Monday. She told me that every kennel at the shelter was full, as was the holding area for strays. “We’ve had tons of calls come in about missing animals,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll have lots of pets reunited with their owners. That’s always our goal.” She also asked me to pass along the word that owners who find their missing pets at the shelter have the opportunity to have their animals microchipped for a fee of only ten dollars. Studies have found that microchipped dogs make it home twice as often as those who aren’t chipped. Microchipped cats are 19 times more likely to be returned to their owners.

To take a look at the animals sheltered (NOT impounded, the staff asked me to emphasize) at the Cookeville/Putnam County facility, go to or visit the shelter at 2650 Gainesboro Grade. They’re open from noon until 6:00 p.m. every day except Wednesday and Sunday. The phone number is (931) 526-3647. The folks there asked me to stress that the shelter is always in need of volunteers. If you’d like to play with kittens, walk dogs, greet the public, answer the phone or clean out kennels, call and offer your services. They’ll be delighted to hear from you.

(July 14, 2019)