Statistics compiled by the Greene County Sheriff's Department, the Greene County Health Department, and the Greeneville-Greene County Humane Society Animal Shelter all point to the presence here of a large number of abandoned or roaming animals.
In some cases, apparently a relative few, the roaming animals involved are livestock, not pets.
For instance, a woman attending the recent meeting of the Greene County Commission's special committee on the animal control issue raised the problem of cows being allowed by their owners to stray onto other people's property - her property in that case.
She pointed out with frustration that there seemed to be no one to call for help when such a situation occurred. Committee Chairman Jim Eagle acknowledged her difficulty but had no solution to offer.
He also pointed out that, for most Greene Countians, the animal control issue comes down to a problem of dealing with unwanted, uncontrolled dogs or cats, especially dogs.
To give readers a more specific understanding of what is often referred to as the local "animal control problem," The Greeneville Sun contacted a number of people who had requested stray animal pick-up for various reasons.
The individual cases described here come from many areas of the county. Most of the people mentioned were on the waiting list at the Humane Society Animal Shelter at the time they were interviewed a few weeks ago.
Poplar Springs Road
Vadis Sagadraca lives near the Cocke County line, a half mile off the Newport Highway on Poplar Springs Road, and she says she regularly sees animals dropped off nearby.
"I think our house is the extended 'Humane Society' for this end of the county," she said. The Sagadracas have five dogs and five cats, but all but one of each was "rescued" from the roadside, from a dumpster, or just showed up.
Of the two most recent dogs to arrive, one is on the waiting list for the real Humane Society animal shelter, "but they're full," and one has been placed with friends.
"Only two of them have been healthy when we've gotten them, so it costs an arm and a leg to get these animals up to an adoptable level."
The three puppies she found in the dumpster "looked like rats," because they were so afflicted with mange, a parasitic skin condition, that they had no hair.
Stray animals are "a major problem here," she says, meaning not only in her neighborhood, but all of the county. "I don't know why people don't realize it. They have to close their eyes to it, if they don't."
Literally, in her case. "My husband tells me, 'Close your eyes,' when we go past this certain area on the Newport Highway where she has seen hungry strays before.
Sagadraca said she also sees, and often feeds, a hungry dog in the vicinity of the Dairy Queen on West Main Street when she goes to the drive-through there.
"I usually buy it a sausage biscuit, and toss it out the window. It's got puppies somewhere."
She and her husband, Dr. Remy Sagadraca of the Takoma Adventist Hospital emergency room, raise cattle, and are also plagued by coyotes.
Coyotes have killed two calves, chewed up their dogs, and eaten cats, she says, "But that's a whole 'nother story."
She said she believes coyotes are attacking pets and calves because "they've eaten up all the small things in the woods."
She said she once saw plenty of rabbits and quail when she walked in the 50 acres of woods she and her husband owned, but no longer. "I think (the coyotes) are running out of food."
Scotts Farm Road
Robin Quillen, her husband, Jackie, and their sons live at the intersection of the Kingsport Highway and Scotts Farm Road, and have lived in the same vicinity for almost 19 years.
She now has 30 cats that she feeds, though only two of them are "my originals." The rest, she believes, were dumped nearby, along with a large number of dogs.
All but the three most recent arrivals have been spayed, she said. After 19 years, she noted, her vet "gives me a group rate."
"The problem has gotten worse in the last 10 years, she said, but "it's always been a problem here." One section of the road has no houses, she said, and "that's where they set them out."
Though she keeps the cats, Quillen said she usually takes stray dogs that show up at her home to the Humane Society's animal shelter.
As a result of her frequent trips there, she said, she and Mike Kelley, the shelter's director, have become good friends. "Mike does a super-duper job," she commented.
Quillen said she continues to keep and feed the cats because "I can't stand to think of them starving."
She said she has "cut out all my other charities," but continues to help the Humane Society, because the animals cannot help themselves.
Quillen said that she believes Greene County's stray animal problem "is definitely an out-of-control thing."
"It's terrible," she said, adding, "if people would just take responsibility" for their pets, there would not be a problem.
Lois Norton has lived on Cooter Lane off Gap Creek Road for a little over a year. She says that she has to contend with four or five dogs that run loose all the time. One dog belongs to a neighbor, she says.
Norton is not afraid of the dogs - "I've got a big dog myself," she said - but she has experienced property damage.
The neighbor's dog "chewed up a $200 rocker/glider" on her porch, Norton said, and "a brand new couch we were going to give away," in one day, before the recipients could pick the couch up.
Norton moved here from Sevierville and built a new house, she said. The neighbor's dog is now on the waiting list for entry to the animal shelter operated by the Humane Society of Greene County. The neighbor "said I could get rid of it for them, they didn't care."
Norton says she also lets her dog run loose, but has not had complaints about it. "He's had his shots, and been neutered."
"We're back in a little valley, here. Everybody pretty much lets them run loose," Norton said.
Janet Smelcer has an animal control problem, even though she really likes the "problem" dog.
Just before Christmas, she said, two hungry puppies showed up at her home near the Warrensburg Road bridge. "They were cute puppies, not emaciated, and clean," she said.
Because they were hungry, and perhaps because it was Christmas, she fed them, "and you know what happens if you feed them: they stay at your house," Smelcer said.
She believes the two pups, both female, were part of a litter of five that a neighbor saw in the vicinity at the same time.
Smelcer at first thought the puppies were Rottweilers, but a veterinarian told her they are more likely Doberman/shepherd mix.
"They're beautiful, and real playful," she said, and had obviously been around people. "We fed them and kept them, and didn't want anything to happen to them."
Smelcer also got the dogs on the waiting list at the animal shelter. "There I discovered the no-kill policy, which I think is wonderful."
Harold Cemetery Road
Robert Drake has a problem with "a couple of animals that have taken up residence" at his father-in-law's house on Harold Cemetery Road, off the Baileyton Road near Greeneville, where his family was house-sitting.
Drake has notified the owners of the dogs that he has asked the animal shelter to take them.
First he asked the owners to keep them home, but nothing happened. The neighbors "are away from home a lot of the time," he said.
Drake has three children, two boys, aged 10 and 7, and a daughter who is 2. One of his boys "made the mistake of feeding them at one time," and now the dogs "think they're supposed to be here."
On Jan. 13, Drake notified the owners in writing to either pick the dogs up, or he would place the dogs on the waiting list for the animal shelter.
Drake sounds as if he likes the dogs. One of them, a large, black dog, "would make somebody a good family dog, I would think."
The smaller dog has stripes that make him look like a dog version of a tabby cat, he said. "I've never seen a mutt quite like him."
But Drake is a full-time graduate student at ETSU, his wife has a full-time job, and they really can't afford extra mouths to feed, not to mention that the in-laws don't like the idea.
The Drakes are "transplants from Florida," where they were used to "a strict leash law," he said.
He says he has no real problem with dogs running loose, at least not in the neighborhood. "When they're neutered, trained and known, it's not a problem."
Asheville Highway Area
For over a year, Ron Smith and his neighbors have experienced problems with dogs running loose in a densely developed residential neighborhood off the Asheville Highway outside Greeneville.
The problem dogs come from two homes, he said. In one instance, two dogs from one home came onto a carport of a family that owned an older dog, and attacked and killed that dog.
Later, the same two dogs attacked a small dog in its own yard, and "ripped its guts out." The dog survived, but the owners of the attacking dogs did not offer to pay the veterinary bills, Smith said.
"They said they would put the dogs on a leash, and so forth, but didn't."
Smith said that "The two nuisance dogs and an occasional stray all pack up together." The informal "pack" came on his own property, he said, and killed his wife's cat.
Sheriff's Department Policy
The problem, as Smith sees it, is, "People don't care where their dogs go. There are laws against that, against letting animals roam, but they won't enforce it," Smith said.
Former Greene County Sheriffs David "Buck" Townsend and Terry Jones have taken the position that they will serve warrants charging someone with letting dogs run at large when a citizen will sign such a warrant.
The Sheriff's Department has apparently never taken it upon itself to prosecute the owners of animals running at large without a warrant's being taken out by a citizen.
Sheriff Steve Burns, who took office in September, says he is studying state law and continuing the policy of his predecessors while waiting to see what the Greene County Commission committee investigating the county's animal control problem decides to recommend.
Smith said that the problem with forcing a citizen to take out a warrant is that it sometimes makes a problem between neighbors worse.
He explained that, when yet another dog problem in his neighborhood became serious enough that he informed the owner that he was considering taking a warrant, the result was threats.
For the second time in a year and a half, sisters Nancy and Karen Leming have had puppies left near their home on Rollins Chapel Road in Paint Creek.
"People always drop dogs out here," says Karen Leming.
When her sister took the two latest puppies to the Humane Society Animal Shelter, there were 34 dogs or cats on the list ahead of her waiting for a space at the shelter.
Since July the Humane Society has operated the shelter on a "no-kill" basis unless an animal is sick, injured, or otherwise considered unadoptable.
Though Larry Page is an animal lover, when a beautiful, well-cared-for black chow showed up, apparently abandoned, at his Ottway home, he couldn't keep the dog, and placed it on the waiting list at the animal shelter.
He also called his sister, Patsy Shelton, and asked if she would like to have the dog.
She and her husband, David Shelton, already have a cat they adopted from the shelter, plus a bassett hound and a blue heeler hound.
Their dogs have the run of 20 acres on Bill Jones Road. All are spayed or neutered.
But the Sheltons just do not have room for another dog.
"We do have a lot of problems with animals in the county," she said.
She and her husband own eight condominiums in one building on the Erwin Highway, and though owners are not allowed to have pets, Shelton said, they still experience "aggravation from neighbor's pets."
Dogs and cats cause problems by digging, making "deposits on the lawn," and chasing cars, she said.
The only child in the complex is afraid of the neighboring dogs, and one jogger says he's afraid of the dogs when he runs, as well, she said.
Velma Bailey lives in the South Central community of Washington County, near the Greene County line, and has a stray cat on the animal shelter waiting list.
She has cats that stay inside at night and outside during the day. On Wednesday night, just before Christmas, a stray cat showed up, cold, wet and hungry, "we fed it," and it disappeared.
She thinks it may have stayed in her garage. Then, three or four days later, "it showed up again."
Bailey and her husband got their current three cats when an expectant cat showed up and dropped them off. They had never had a cat, but couldn't resist the three kittens, who turned into "three beautiful cats."
Her cats "are all fixed," and have their shots, and though she loves them, Bailey said, three is enough.
No survey was taken, but other Sun staff members who overheard this reporter asking about stray animal problems volunteered their own stories.
Sports writer Joe Byrd said that in the last two and a half months, four stray dogs have shown up where he lives on Whirlwind Road.
Byrd's mother kept one, he said. He took the second, a puppy, to the Humane Society, where it was adopted the next day. The Health Department has picked up one, and Byrd's father was able to "run the last one off."
Police reporter Bill Jones said his wife and mother-in-law have "adopted two cats and two dogs that showed up" in recent months.
Last year, Jones said, he found three puppies at nearby Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, where he believes they were dropped, and took them to the animal shelter.
Reporter Tom Yancey, the writer of this article, has had numerous dogs and cats show up where he lives on Carlton Ridge Lane.
In the last five years, three stray dogs have shown up and stayed, one of them obviously diseased.
The diseased dog was picked up by the Greene County Health Department for euthanization, and a few days later, the Humane Society Animal Shelter kindly accepted and euthanized the family pet dog, Empress, also a "show-up," after she displayed the same symptoms as the diseased dog.
In addition to the family cat that showed up and has been adopted and neutered, numerous other cats and litters of kittens have shown up.
Some have been placed with families through ads in The Greeneville Sun, or by word of mouth. Others have been accepted by the shelter.
The current family dog showed up Christmas morning three years ago, starving, his paw badly cut, and was taken in after efforts to find its owner failed.
Next: A look at the animal control issue through the eyes of several local veterinarians.