JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -

Johnson City leaders have been pursuing a dream for 15 years. And today with a shovel of dirt, construction on the new Washington County - Johnson City animal shelter officially got underway.


It has one main purpose; to save more animals.

Debbie Dobbs, Animal Shelter Director tells us, "It's a hard thing to do when you have to euthanize an animal being injured, sick or aggressive, but having to do them just because we don't have the space, it's just heart wrenching."

Right now the animal shelter has a disturbing euthanasia rate at 60-percent.
With its limited space, cats can only remain in the shelter for 5 days, and dogs for 7.

Yesterday alone, 16 animals were put down because there just weren't enough beds.
Jane Myron, former Johnson City mayor and animal shelter supporter says , "I don't like anybody to hurt or no have a bed. Even a dog deserves a bed." She has been a driving force behind this project for 13 years and is one of many people dedicated to these animals.

Brenda Fielden, a volunteer at the animal shelter is another. "We are overwhelmed, we are full. The dog space is full, the cat space is full. So it's been a little down, but every day I come back and i say what can I do today to make their lives better?"

The other problem with this facility is that it's not climate controlled. On extremely hot or frigidly cold days, the animals have no way to stay warm or to cool off.

But the new climate controlled facility will fix both problems, tripling the cat capacity and doubling the dog kennel. And making all of them more comfortable.

Right now$ 2.85 million has been raised, which Johnson City Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin calls "the verge of sufficiency." But he says they need more than money - they also need the community to take responsibility for their animals. "What we truly need is we need more effective spay and neuter laws and we need to educate the public so that they understand the importance of getting their animals spay and neutered so we don't have all these additional animals coming into the shelter."

The new, climate-controlled shelter is expected to be ready to start taking animals before the temperatures drop this winter. It's located beside Dixie Barbeque on Roan Street.