"Massive" parvovirus outbreak at troubled Newport animal shelter

@ # State

NEWPORT, Tenn. (WVLT) -- On Friday, the Cocke County Sheriff confirmed that an investigation into the Friends Animal Shelter is ongoing and a nine-page report has been submitted to the District Attorney. That same day, new Shelter Director Elisha Henry said that the shelter had experienced a massive parvovirus outbreak and that,

"The animals are gone. It's unfortunate."

Henry said that an animal control officer brought in an infected dog, sparking the outbreak. She said no animals at the shelter, as of Friday, tested positive for parvovirus, but she could not say how many animals were currently housed there.

The shelter has long been embroiled in controversy, brought to light with the arrest and firing of shelter director, Terry Wayne Starnes. Starnes was charged with animal cruelty at the beginning of December after images of a malnourished dog went viral on Facebook.

On Friday, Henry said that two staff members are on probation because they worked under Starnes.

The shelter's board president, Anne Fontaine, said that the shelter had a 'no kill' policy; however, reports circulated that the shelter had been euthanizing and dumping animals at the landfill in Jefferson County.

The director, David Gaut, confirmed that the shelter had recently dumped 1,480 pounds of unidentified trash in December. He said that the shelter had also dumped 1,040 pounds of unidentified trash in November, and 740 pounds of unidentified trash in August. He said crews do not check the contents of each haul, but he said his landfill accepts dead animals while the Cocke County landfill does not.

The sheriff said the findings of the report will be released at a later date; however, he could not confirm what had been dumped at the Jefferson Co. landfill.