County’s consolidation means Martin won’t oversee animal shelter

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rowan County Manager Aaron Church on Monday announced administration changes that result in Clai Martin no longer overseeing the Rowan County Animal Shelter.

At a Rowan County commissioners meeting, Church announced the consolidation of several areas of Rowan County government. The consolidation would create a new department called Rowan County Animal Services. Church said Bob Pendergrass, the current director of the Nature Center at Dan Nicholas Park, would be promoted to oversee the new, consolidated department.

The consolidated department will include veterinarian services, animal enforcement, the Nature Center at Dan Nicholas Park and the Rowan County Animal Shelter.

As part of the consolidation, current Rowan County Animal Control Director Clai Martin will be moved into another position — manager of the animal enforcement division.

In Martin’s current role, he oversees the animal shelter. He has been a frequent target of criticism from local animal advocates. Following an incident where a cat’s jaw was broken while at the shelter, animal advocates created a petition on Change.org calling on the county to fire Martin. That petition has received thousands of signatures. A Facebook page advocating for Martin to be fired has also been created.

Church said Rowan County has also recently created an animal shelter manager position that is currently vacant.

Church said the animal enforcement division’s duties would include animal cruelty investigations, enforcing ordinances, going to court, answering complaints and any other duties assigned by the Animal Services director.

When announcing the change in administration, Church said the consolidation was a natural fit.

“This move will consolidate two operations that have many similarities,” he said. “Staff will have more support and access to additional resources while all four divisions will improve the care that animals receive.”

Church said the consolidation will occur because of “continuing state requirements, animal shelter growth and veterinarian services.” County staff on March 14 first began working on the consolidation. The consolidation became effective on Monday.

The new department will have 20 full-time and up to 40 part-time employees.

In his announcement, Church noted Pendergrass’ experience at the Nature Center, which has three naturalists, a contract veterinarian and a public outreach employee. The center maintains a collection of animals, including: snakes, birds, groundhogs, raccoons, foxes, bobcats, a bear, deer and two wolves.

Pendergrass has 20 years of experience as a naturalist and supervisor in Rowan County. He earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering operations and operations management from North Carolina State University and has certifications from the from the American Zoo and Aquarium Associations in zoo and aquarium management and exhibit design.

Outside of work, Pendergrass serves as an executive board member and treasurer for the Land Trust for Central NC, member of the Rowan Senior Games Steering Committee and is the legislative liaison to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and US Fish and Wildlife Services for the NC Falconers Guild and Carolina Hawking Club.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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