The Knox Whitley Humane Association has undergone numerous changes over the last 10 years, and its latest one will be one of the biggest as Director Deanna Myers has elected to retire.
“It was just time to retire,” Myers said noting she has her farm to take care of, but will not be walking completely away from the shelter.
I will always be around if they need me. You don’t do something like this for this long and then just walk away from it,” Myers said.
Myers, who has seen the organization formerly known as the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter through the fire that destroyed the facility in 2013, two subsequent moves that enabled the shelter to continue operating, a name change with a mission to eliminate euthanizations, and partnerships with rescues that have been instrumental is saving lives, has left her mark on the facility that serves, Whitley, Knox, Clay and McCreary counties.
“I’m very proud of where Knox-Whitley is and that is why I’m very comfortable in leaving,” Myers said.
“She has been awesome,” said KWHA Board Chair Mary-Ann Smyth of Myers.
Smyth said the shelter hit a low point on Nov. 29, 2013.
Woodbine, Oak Grove, and other neighboring departments responded to the scene on Ky. 1064 at approximately 10 p.m.
A Whitley County Sheriff’s deputy had initially been called to the scene to check on an activated burglar alarm, only to find the building in flames.
No one was in the building at the time, but several cats, and “Sassy” the resident shelter dog, perished in the blaze.
Multiple shelters and rescues provided resources, such as mobile adoption trailers, while the community and the country rallied to provide food, supplies and funds.
By December 17, the shelter was up and running at a temporary location on Fifth Street in Corbin.
“If not for Deanna then we probably would have closed our doors for good,” Smyth said. “Because of her, we never missed a step.”
Shelter officials used the insurance money from the fire, along with proceeds from the sale of the property, and numerous donations to purchase and renovate a former coal site reclamation facility on Busy Lane off of Fifth Street to serve as the new shelter.
The new building, which was approximately three times the size of the old building, had room to house 150 animals, compared to 75 at the old building.
The new shelter opened in March 2015.
In April 2018, the Knox/Whitley Animal Shelter changed its name to the Knox-Whitley Humane Association with the goal of becoming a, “no-kill shelter.”
As part of that goal, the shelter went to managed intake of animals in an effort to save more lives.
The shelter takes animals as space becomes available, working with owners, especially those who would prefer to keep their animal but feel they have no other choice but to surrender it.
Managed intake allows shelter officials to arrange with their rescue partners to free up space.
“Managed intake has allowed us to be above 90 percent for save rate,” Smyth said noting that approximately 95 percent of the animals that come into the shelter are owner surrenders.
Myers said the thing she is most proud of during her tenure as director, is the policy instituted in 2015 requiring every animal to be spayed or neutered before it was adopted.
“We were being part of the solution and not part of the problem,” Myers said noting the shelter gave new pet owners vouchers to have the animal spayed or neutered, but the vouchers weren’t always used.
In addition, the shelter began working with area vets on a low cost spay and neuter program for the community.
Myers said the shelter has seen a steady increase in the number of shelter volunteers. The volunteers do everything from bathe animals to play with them to get them used to human contact, making them more adoptable.
“Shelter volunteers are such an untapped resource for shelters. They can be the backbone of the shelter and really make a difference,” Myers said.
Smyth said the shelter board has not yet made a decision on who will be the next director.
Myers said whoever the next director is, she would advise them to continue their education into new ways to benefit the shelter pets.
“And pay attention to your community,” Myers said reiterating that community involvement is essential to the shelter’s success.
“Everybody can do something,” Myers said of potential volunteers.
Myers’ last day will be May 15.
A going-away event will be held from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. at the shelter on Busy Lane. The event is open to the public.
More information will be available on the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter Facebook page.