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Our goal is to provide outdoor animals in our community with better housing, bedding, food, and water bowls. We may also be able to help with basic veterinary care. There is no cost, no judgement, and no catch.

Appalachia: Mission Pawsible (AMP)

Coalition of animal rescues working to provide shelter, food to area dogs and cats

A recently formed coalition of local animal rescues and organizations named Appalachia: Mission Pawsible, or AMP, is working to provide shelter, bedding and food to dogs and cats in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia counties from Knoxville to Wytheville.

The goal of AMP is to help owners provide the best care for their pets without fearing judgment that they’ll be viewed as bad pet parents because they lack supplies.

“It’s a big dream, but I think we can do it,” said Jamie Farris, co-founder of AMP and director of Tiny Paws Sanctuary for Special Needs Animals. “We’ve just got to have a lot of rescues who are willing to work together. … Our sole focus is the animal so we’re trying to take an approach that a lot of people don’t want to take, which is not to go in and judge, but to just go in and help the animal. We’ve seen good response with that.”

She said Friday that members have been talking and exchanging ideas on social media for a couple of months but launched into action over the past week to aid animals that are being kept outdoors in single-digit temperatures. In that time, AMP provided around a dozen dogs with food and warm doghouses insulated with straw, she said.

“People are excited,” Farris said. “They like that it’s something new, and they like that it’s something that sees immediate results, and it goes beyond what other groups have done on a larger sense.”

So far, AMP members include: Tiny Paws Sanctuary for Special Needs Animals; Neonatal Kitten Rescue; Appalachian Tails Rescue; Scott County Humane Society; Chainfree Bristol; East Tennessee Spay & Neuter; Friends of Russell County Animal Shelter; volunteers from Sullivan County Animal Shelter and Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter; and several individuals from local counties.

In addition to providing dog houses and bedding, AMP has four other primary goals: form a co-op of animal rescue organizations so supplies and food can be bought in bulk at discounted rates; establish several pet food bank locations for owners who can’t afford food; apply for nonprofit status; and create a low cost spay/neuter program.

Farris said she will serve as president if nonprofit status is received. She’s working toward getting everything ready to apply, which includes naming a vice president and secretary then writing by-laws and articles of incorporation, and raising $600 for the cost to apply.

Ericka Gamble, co-founder of AMP, said Friday the response from the community has been “incredible.”

“People are already starting to reach out to us on Facebook and sort of swallow their pride and say, ‘Hey, I do need help. Please help me,’” she said. “I feel like this group is going to be successful as long as we keep the mindset that we are judgment-free. We just want to help.”

Stacey Heiden, co-founder of AMP and projects and operations manager of East Tennessee Spay & Neuter, called the group “a win-win for the welfare of animals in our communities” and stressed that AMP helps pet owners at no cost.

“We may have differing opinions on what type of ‘saving’ an animal needs, but the thing we can all get behind is the immediate need for those who ask for help,” she said. “We have been overwhelmed by the support of our region [who are] tired of calling animal control about pets left in the cold and not seeing any results. They want to get involved, and this is the perfect way to do it. Donations and offers of dog houses, cat totes, food, straw bales, and more are pouring in to make a difference.”

A long term goal of AMP is to improve animal welfare legislation in Tennessee and Virginia by including specific definitions of what is “adequate” food, water, care and shelter. Current laws in both states say “necessary” and “adequate” food, water, care and shelter must be provided for animals, but doesn’t define “necessary” and “adequate.” Because those definitions don’t exist, Farris said animal control officers are limited on what they can do to help animals.

“As long as they have some kind of shelter, and it can be the worst shelter in the world … that’s all that’s required — you don’t have to put bedding in it,” she said. “You don’t have to do anything to make it warmer for them.”

Farris said AMP plans to contact all animal rescues and shelters from Wytheville to Knoxville with information about its dog house and food bank programs to get at least one person or a group in each county to facilitate the programs for their area.

“If we can, then we can help region wide,” she said. “It’s something that’s never been done, but … if we fail, we’ve still saved a lot of animals in the process.”

When it warms up, Farris said AMP will start building dog houses and cat shelters.