In February 2000, Nine Counties. One Vision. started when several groups began talking separately, but simultaneously, about the need for a process to create a common agenda in the Knoxville area. It was designed as a grass roots initiative to give a voice to the general population in the future of the region. The strongest message that emerged from Nine Counties. One Vision was an exhortation to citizens and leaders to recognize and protect the values and assets of the region, “a region growing into greatness.” The 9 counties area was defined as Anderson, Blount, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Roane, Sevier, and Union Counties. Nine Counties. One Vision. began gathering ideas from citizens in the region on how to make our area a better place to live and work. A total of 8,827 ideas were gathered. Animal welfare ranked fifth on the list of concerns.
The Animal Welfare Task Force developed out of those concerns, and in 2002, began working to develop a plan to address this complex issue. The Task Force was co-chaired by former Dean Michael Blackwell and Mr. William VonSchipmann and divided its focus into three areas:
- humane education
Nine Counties. One Vision. dissolved December 31, 2004. It was the strong feeling of the Animal Welfare Task Force members that the initiative must continue under a new administrative organization. Thus, the members and activities of the Task Force moved to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine under the name “CAIT” (Companion Animal Initiative of Tennessee). This new program will complement existing activities of the College such as H.A.B.I.T. (Human Animal Bond in Tennessee), and Veterinary Social Work Services.