One Woman Show in Nashville

July 13, 2023

It is a one-woman show at City of Nashville GA Animal Shelter. Thankfully, that woman is pretty incredible.

Kayla is the Animal Control Officer/shelter director/adoption coordinator/kennel attendant/doer-of-everything. Prior to taking this job, she was a volunteer at the shelter and ran (and still runs) a boarding business. She is also a dog trainer and served in the Air Force for ten years. I’m not sure you could have a better resume for taking over a woefully underequipped and underfunded shelter.

The Nashville shelter is hidden behind the power station, down a long sandy dirt road. The entire enterprise is lined up on a narrow strip of grass situated between two enormous cooling ponds.

There is a small donated shed for an office, a trailer for the cats, and a collection of raised dog kennels (think giant rabbit hutches) for the dogs. The shelter handles about 300 dogs a year (and I’m not sure how many cats).

Kayla began work at the shelter at the end of 2022. Last year, the city gave the shelter a budget of $200 for dog food and $1500 for euthanasia.

Things will be different with Kayla in charge. She isn’t afraid to advocate for her animals and the shelter. She has yet to euthanize a dog and her voice rises as she explains that she has no plans to, and that come hell or high water, she’ll find a way to save every dog.

Kayla is working hard to adopt out dogs – sending every animal home spayed/neutered, up to date on shots, and microchipped, despite having an adoption fee of only $100. Kayla speaks highly of the local vet who does their work, but also admits that they do not get a discount and pay between $200-$400 for spays and neuters.

The city of Nashville is in Berrien County. The county also has a shelter with a similar number of animals and similar conditions. Kayla has become friends with the ACO there and the two of them would love to see the two shelters merged (in a real building). Then each woman wouldn’t have to run every single animal control call in addition to caring for and finding homes for all the dogs.

Kayla makes the most of the situation though, and it was clear that is the kind of person she is—upbeat, resourceful, and confident. She has a small fenced area where all the dogs get out to run and have play groups. She works with them doing basic training, enrichment exercises, and smart play. Kayla would love to have some agility equipment (and maybe at least a few toys with intact squeakers!).

Amazingly, the average stay (she keeps statistics on this) is just seven days. She had a couple of dogs who had been here much longer (about four months) at the time of our visit, but she works hard to find placement for the dogs. For now, until they have shelter software, she networks the dogs through Facebook but hopes to eventually have them on Petfinder.

Kayla would also love to have a few rescue connections, but she’s new to this job and knows it takes time to build those relationships. (That said, if you’re a rescue that can help, please reach out.)

Kayla’s energy is infectious and even though the situation looks tough, we were inspired by her work and the future here.

If you’d like to help, here are a few options:

Shop their Amazon wishlist:…/gl/guest-view/168PNM4RCZ5WR

Donate to their veterinary fund:…

And help spread the word about this tiny shelter on the brink of big things. I have no doubt that if we swing through here again in a year, there will be a new story. I have absolute faith in the determination, resourcefulness, creativity, and optimism of this remarkable woman.

Until each one has a home,


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Learn more about what is happening in our southern shelters and rescues in the book, One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues (Pegasus Books, 2020). It’s the story of a challenging foster dog who inspired me to travel south to find out where all the dogs were coming from. It tells the story of how Who Will Let the Dogs Out began. Find it anywhere books are sold. A portion of the proceeds of every book sold go to help unwanted animals in the south.

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