Janna Cecil: Dogs deserve better

Beth KinnaneOur Town Neighbors, West Knox County

Life on the end of a chain is just no way for any dog to live. Sometimes the financially strapped can’t afford to have any sort of fence or proper enclosure installed. Enter Janna Cecil and ChainFree Knoxville.


“This is really very new,” Cecil said. “We’re just now getting up and running. We got our 501(c)(3) in July. So now we’re trying to build up donations and start building fences.”

Cecil said while there is no national organization, she talked to similar groups in other cities, especially in Asheville, North Carolina, about how to get started, learning best practices in order to incorporate a similar group here in Knoxville.

Of course, approaching someone with a dog continually chained up in their yard can be a tricky situation.

“The best thing is to approach without judgment, regardless of your personal feelings about it,” Cecil said. “You have no idea what the reasons are. You have to meet people where they are. I just knock on the door, let them know I run a small non-profit to help build enclosures, and ask if they would be interested in some help, take them a brochure. Most people have been very receptive.”

Nala was living chained inside a fence that needed repairs.

Sometimes dogs are chained in a fenced yard because the fence needs repairs the owners can’t afford. Or their owners may be renters and unable to keep the dog inside. Whatever the reason, Cecil wants to help people provide better for their canines.

Fully fencing a back yard in chain link is an expensive proposition, and one that is not currently on the menu, she said. “We’re looking at some fencing panel options that are more affordable than chain link. Our aim is to provide the dog with enough space to be outdoors without a chain, preferably in a way that connects directly to the house. Some type of fenced enclosure is the better option.”

One requirement for help from ChainFree is that all dogs be spayed or neutered. The organization covers the cost of that as well if needed.

Nala now has a secure enclosure and no more chain.

Cecil, obviously, is a dog lover and operates on the basic notion that they deserve better than to live life chained up. While it is something she has always wanted to do something about, her recent retirement from the city of Knoxville has afforded her the time to get ChainFree up and running.

A Fountain City native, Cecil graduated from Central High School in 1976. Also a UT graduate, she started working for the city in 1993, most recently as housing manager of community development. Though she officially retired on the cusp of the Covid-19 pandemic, she stayed on part-time till March 2021 until her replacement could be named. She and her husband recently moved to the Solway community.

“I just knew this was the thing I needed to do now,” Cecil said. “We’re gearing up for more fund-raisers, and we can always use more volunteers. And we’d really like to try to get some business sponsorships as well.”

For more information or to make a donation to ChainFree Knoxville go here and here.

Beth Kinnane is the community news editor for KnoxTNToday.com

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