Editorial: New day for county shelter?

Published 1:12 am Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The new leadership structure for Rowan County Animal Control sounds like an overdue shakeup and a logical next step. The Animal Control Department which Clai Martin has headed for many years has been expanded into something bigger, and Martin is in charge of just the enforcement division. 

Something had to give. Taking the shelter out from under Martin’s supervision could appease animal activists who have butted heads with him through the years and recently pushed for his termination. It remains to be seen how much difference the reorganization actually makes and whether the public will be satisfied.  

The shelter has grown into a major operation, thanks to generous donors who have funded a new cat wing and an intake room; funds are being raised for a 63-kennel dog wing, too. Expecting the man who chases strays and investigates animal cruelty to also manage a large facility with a million-dollar budget was impractical. With Martin reassigned, the search is on to find someone to run the growing shelter. 

Dan Nicholas Park’s Nature Center, which has its own menagerie, now joins Animal Services, and its director, Bob Pendergrass, steps up to oversee all four animal-related divisions, including Martin’s. Pendergrass deserves congratulations; his bosses obviously think a lot of him. With full duties to keep him busy at the Nature Center, though, will he have much time to spend at the shelter? If not, and shelter employees continue to look to Martin for direction, not much changes. That’s the danger of keeping the “old” director around. Redrawing the organizational chart and putting someone else in charge in name only is only a half-measure. 

The success of the program hinges on the yet-to-be-hired shelter director. The county needs someone who has a heart for animals and a head for management, someone who can earn animal activists’ trust and deal fairly with the general public. If someone like that signs on, it really will be a new day for the animal shelter.