Board approves plan to overhaul animal control procedures

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Rowan County commissioners gave the green light Monday to a plan aimed at overhauling animal control operations and ultimately ending the euthanization of all adoptable pets in the county.
“The proposal is to make some sweeping changes with animal control for Rowan County. It is by no means a concrete plan,” Pierce said. “This plan has been fast-tracked to go ahead and get some relief from what seems to be a pressing issue with a lot of our citizens.”
The gassing of all animals, except those deemed aggressive, will end in April, Pierce said.
Pierce said animal control is waiting on the necessary equipment to be able to handle those aggressive animals.
“That means it may take up to an additional 30 (days) to 60 days from April 1 to completely go to euthanasia by injection,” Pierce said.
Commissioners also will not be pursuing a grant from the Humane Society to be used in helping to dismantle the county’s gas chamber.
According to the plan, the county will hire a veterinarian who will assess animals as they come to animal control and attend to any medical needs.
All adoptable animals will be sterilized in an effort to curb the number of their potential offspring returning to the shelter, Pierce said, and the sterilization costs will be included in the adoption fees.
“We are requesting for the health department to release animal control from their jurisdiction and place it with our county manager,” Pierce said. “This is a move to streamline the operation and to allow for more direct input and faster policy changes. If the board deems necessary to make changes, we can do that without going through the health department.”
An alternate adoption center at West End Plaza also is part of the amorphous plan — the goal of which is to remove the stigma of going to adopt a pet in the same shelter where animals are euthanized.
“No-kill is our ultimate goal. It is not going to be our immediate goal,” Pierce said. “It will take some time for implementation, policies and some time to see exactly, with our budget dollars, what we will be able to do.”
While plans call for a no-kill approach at the shelter, commissioners voiced their confusion as to what “no-kill” constitutes.
“As I have researched this project, I’m not really sure what no-kill is. It varies according to who you talk to,” Pierce said. “The last thing we want to do is tell the public that we’re going to be able to do certain things, and then not be able to do them.”
Jim Sides, chairman of the board, said employees at the animal control shelter are under a lot of pressure and, up until recently, were never told they were doing things wrong.
“When you go to make these types of sweeping changes, you’re affecting a lot of people. You’re affecting departments that have done things one way for a long period of time,” Sides said. “All of the sudden, a bunch of people come forward and tell them everything they are doing is wrong.”
Rowan County “goes a lot farther” than required in the state statutes when it comes to animal control, Sides said.
“We wish everybody would be responsible in taking care of their animals. We wish we didn’t have to put any down,” Sides said. “The reality is there is never going to be a no-kill shelter, and we are going to always have to euthanize certain animals – feral cats, wild animals we receive, raccoons, foxes that carry rabies.”
The goal commissioners are working toward is getting to a point where no adoptable animal ever is put down, Sides said.
In addition to emphasizing not all animals will be euthanized by lethal injection by April 1 and a Humane Society grant will not be pursued to dismantle the gas chamber, Sides said the alternate site for animal adoption at West End Plaza is a concern.
“My concern has to do with (upfront costs), what it is going to take and some of the regulations (because) we are creating basically another shelter in another location,” Sides said. “We’re going to have the same requirements by the state for inspection. We basically have to create a sister shelter from my understanding.”
Toward the end of the discussion on revamping the county’s animal control procedures, Commissioner Jon Barber asked audience members who supported a no-kill shelter to stand.
Dozens stood.
“It is these people right here who have brought us to the this point exactly in seventeen minutes. It took five minutes before the motion was made and seconded, and another twelve (minutes) of discussion,” Barber said. “This particular proposal will help us make a change that will improve the lives of our furry friends who deserve humane treatment.”
Barber said his only disappointment was it took “not weeks, not months, but years” to get to the 17-minute conversation of changing animal control methods.
“It’s all of those lives of our furry friends that could have been saved had we acted earlier,” Barber said. “For that, I’m sorry.”