Maryville, Blount County (WVLT) - Thousands of people in Blount County are starting the new year without any help controlling stray animals in their neighborhoods.
The county did not renew its contract with Maryville's animal shelter because of a money shortage.
Interested citizens and groups are gathering Thursday night at the county courthouse to seek both short and long term solutions.
Calls are already coming into the county commission and mayor's office from concerned people, but at this point there's no one to help.
Dacia Matos and her family were leaving home the other day when they were confronted by an angry dog.
"And I heard a guff behind me and when I turned around and looked, I saw this huge pit bull right here," she says.
She quickly got her mother in law in the car before the dog went toward her front door.
"The dog had come around the car and was standing here and my four year old was right there in the doorway," Dacia recalls.
"I was scared to death. I was, absolutely, in the car still shaking for an hour after the incident," she says.
Unable to find animal control, she was forced to call the sheriff's office.
"If the dog attacked us then they would have responded out to try to attempt to catch the dog. That just absolutely infuriated me," Dacia says.
She then called the County Commission where she was told they were working on the problem.
"So this month sometime they might discuss it. So until that time we're left to deal with this all on our own," Matos says.
She's not alone. Since the county's animal control contract ended December 31st, only Rockford, Alcoa, and Maryville have animal control.
Animal welfare officials say the problem will only grow worse over time.
"If they can't get any animal control until the middle of next year there will be 3,000 extra animals running around Blount County," explains Rick Yeager, from Rescue and Fostering Networks.
Not only with population, but disease.
"There's no rabies control program in Blount county because they have no animal control," Yeager says.
This leaves people like Dacia Matos with few options.
"My husband just for now says you're going to have to stay indoors and be careful when you leave," says Matos.
Sheriff's officials say they are only responding to life threatening situations involving animals while referring calls to the county commission.
Officials hope to find a temporary solution until a long term one can be found
The group also hopes to give interested residents tips on dealing with stray animals in the interim.