As one county commissioner has threatened to endorse the closing of the animal shelter in light of “bad statements” toward county management by members of the public, the shelter director said he remains focused on moving forward with improvements that will include the dismantling of the gas chamber.
The shelter received its Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) licensing at the beginning of February to begin lethal injection and demolish the chamber. With the license already in place, shelter director Alan Canady said the county is waiting on the drugs to be administered.
“As soon as we get the drugs in, we can switch the next day,” Canady said Friday. “We hope to be doing (lethal injection) it a couple weeks. We’ve got everything we need. Public Works is going to have to come in and dismantle the gas chamber. That will be a big deal.”
Even as those strides are made, Commissioner Jarvis McLamb expressed concerns earlier this week about critical statements made toward county managerial staff and its handling of shelter-related issues. Those statements crossed the line into name-calling.
“There have been some mighty bad statements concerning the administration and our county manager,” said McLamb. “And when you’re talking about the administration and the county manager, you’re talking about us too — and I don’t like it.”
McLamb noted that the animal shelter is costing the county money. He offered alternatives, one that would see the shelter shut down, the other that would see a pet tax levied.
“I have thought of two things, and I’ll catch hell on both of them,” said McLamb. “One of them is closing Animal Control, and everybody take up their own dogs and cats. Another one is to start charging a tax. Cumberland County charges a tax — $25 for an non-neutered dog and $5 for a neutered one. These are some things on my mind. If things don’t get better, I hope I can convince some of these other commissioners to do something.
“As far as some bad feelings that have been put out, if the manager wants to take any action, I’ll be with him 100 percent, because I think it’s being said in a roundabout way to the commissioners also,” McLamb said.
On Friday, Canady said he was not taken completely aback by McLamb’s comments. During the county’s planning session last month, McLamb questioned whether operating a shelter was in Sampson’s best interest. He said he can only do the job he was hired to do, and ensure shelter employees do the same.
“I don’t really think it’s going to go anywhere,” said Canady, “but the only thing we can do is keep doing what we need to do and pushing forward, because I have people here that have jobs and there are people who rely on this service.”
One sticking concern by local animal welfare groups has been the gas chamber and its continued use.
Canady said it is going away, but will ultimately cost money in additional staffing costs.
While a move to lethal injection is a humane and positive one, it will be one that, coupled with a growing animal population and state mandates on cleaning procedures and disease control, requires extra personnel. Canady plans to request one additional full-time and one part-time shelter attendant in the 2013-14 budget, as well as recommend facility improvements to further prevent disease outbreaks.
In last month’s planning session, Canady said an ordinance was being prepared that would likely include fines for pets that run free and are taken to the shelter by Animal Control. Currently, that means a $25 flat fee to the owner to reclaim such an animal whether it is held for one day or 30 days.
“That doesn’t cover the cost of food, honestly,” said Canady.
He said he plans to propose a $10 per day fee that will more than cover costs and expenses. The ordinance may also include citations to owners.
“If I find your dog on the side of the road and I bring it home to you, I don’t just say ‘don’t let this happen again.’ I write you a citation. It can be a $50 fine that goes to the county. You can’t always go criminal, but you can go to civil (fines) and that money can go to the county.”
Such enforcement helps with animals running free around the county, which in turn causes the pet population to grow, Canady noted. In animal cruelty and neglect cases, where the shelter is forced to house animals, the county may also impose that restitution be paid for the care provided by the county.
“The animal shelter can be self-sufficient,” said Canady. “This is a revenue nightmare for the county, so whenever you can say ‘this is where you can make money,’ it’s beneficial.”
Canady said he hopes to have a proposed ordinance for the county board to consider by this summer. In the meantime, commissioners said they are seeking a more civil relationship with members of the community passionate about animals, adoption and the shelter’s activities.
“We’ve been called names,” said Lockamy. “When we’re called names, it hurts all of us. We put our time and efforts into this, from the county manager to the commissioners. We’re working with some groups and I think we’re working out some differences now.”
Commissioner Albert Kirby said he and Lockamy met with a contingent of local animal welfare representatives recently. Kirby said the desire is to reach some common ground and work together moving forward.
“Passions run high and people take their causes very, very strongly to heart, so you’ve got some really passionate people, so sometimes the temper goes,” said Kirby. “We made it clear, the chairman and I, that being uncivilized and unkind doesn’t accomplish anything. It was our hope that somehow that energy can be used in a positive way.”
Lockamy said it was a positive meeting. Both he and Kirby said they could still see where McLamb was coming from with his concerns.
“I hear Commissioner McLamb and I understand how you get frustrated and you start to say well, there’s no legal requirement the county have an animal shelter, in my understanding of the law,” said Kirby. “Obviously, it would be a perfect scenario if we had one and it worked harmoniously and everybody got together and did what they could do for the betterment of the animals.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.