Our History


Of the six men who chartered the Humane Society back in 1885, one was Peter Kern, a German immigrant who was a connoisseur of worthwhile things; cruelty prevention being one of them. The HSTV was originally known as the Knox County Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Animals. It kept that full name for years but by 1900, there were other advocates for child welfare and the Humane Society was focused almost entirely on helping animals.

In the early days, the Humane Society didn’t have a headquarters, but met once a month in their attorney’s office. They always had an attorney in their organization, because much of the early efforts were based on the enforcement of laws and to “secure by all lawful means the arrest, conviction and punishment” of people who mistreat animals, either by hurting or neglecting them.

In 1957 Knoxville established its first animal shelter, which was also the only animal shelter in the State of Tennessee. The Knox County Humane Society began a longtime contract with the County to take care of stray animals. 20 years ago, the Knox County Humane Society expanded its borders beyond the County to become the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley. The Humane Society left its Knox County contract in 2001, and at that time opened its first no-kill shelter. Since then, HSTV has found homes for nearly 22,000 dogs and cats. Now located at our “forever home” on Bearden Hill, we place about 100 animals each month into new homes.

During the last half of the century, the Humane Society has focused largely on protecting dogs and cats, and solving the burgeoning pet overpopulation problem by opening a low cost spay/neuter clinic. We have also implemented a training program since troublesome behavior is one of the reasons dogs are abandoned.

The Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley has worked hard throughout its existence to be at the forefront of animal welfare. In June of 2016, HSTV announced its most ambitious goal yet: to ending euthanasia of adoptable animals in East Tennessee by 2025.