Edds: Balance needed to fund animal shelter, other departments

Published 12:05 am Thursday, September 1, 2016

By Josh Bergeron


SALISBURY — Ensuring the Rowan County Animal Shelter meets community standards is a balancing act, according to County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds.

When asked about the animal shelter’s failed state inspection this week, Edds focused on the county’s ability to pay for shelter operations, improvements at the animal shelter during the previous three years and the euthanasia rates of surrounding counties.

A few days ago, county officials were told about the failed inspection, which occurred mostly because of sanitation issues at the shelter. No penalty was enforced, but county officials were given seven days to respond to the failed inspection with a corrective action plan. A follow-up inspection will also be conducted.

Budget considerations were a primary talking point when Edds was asked about the failed inspection on Wednesday.

“It’s balancing act that is regulation by finite funding,” he said. “We have to try to figure out how to balance the demands of the community with available resources.”

The county is committed to a low euthanasia rate, but has to accomplish that goal within the confines of its budget, according to Edds. He also noted that commissioners have significantly increased funding to animal control. He estimated the county’s budget at the animal shelter has increased by at least 40 percent in recent years.

Annual audits for Rowan County show operating expenses at the Animal Shelter were $617,979 in the 2011 fiscal year. This year’s budget for the newly created Animal Services division is $1.54 million. Those numbers represent an increase of roughly 150 percent in six years.

“It’s no secret that we have to be careful with the amount of money that we budget for all of the departments,” Edds said. “When we take on more and more animals, it creates challenges. … When you have 5,000 animals coming in per year that you’re dealing with and you’re trying not to euthanize any of them, it is presenting a tremendous challenge on a budget that we have increased significantly.”

As they consider funding levels for the animal shelter, he said, county government leaders also have to consider other funding areas such as the Rowan-Salisbury School System, sheriff’s office, Health Department, employee pay and parks and recreation.

The answer to preventing any further failed state inspections would be to hire 10 more people at the animal shelter. He characterized it as impossible to hire 10 more people. Rowan County is currently among the top five counties for fewest cats and dogs euthanized, according to Edds.

He also briefly talked about the euthanasia rates of other counties near Rowan. Edds specifically focused on Stanly County, where 95 percent of cats brought into the shelter in 2015 were euthanized, according to state statistics. Online records, which date back to 2006, show no failed state inspections.

Edds declined to elaborate on the record about why he was focusing on Stanly County in reference to Rowan County’s recent inspection.

Although he spent time defending the Rowan County Animal Shelter, Edds also clarified that county staff and leaders are embarrassed by the failed state inspection.

The inspection, he said, “refocuses us on asking the hard questions of why this happened and how this happened and what changes are being put in place to ensure it never happens again.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.