The county’s interim animal shelter director was officially introduced to the Sampson County Board of Commissioners this week, and she came bearing good news. In the last six weeks, the shelter has seen an outpouring of support and interest that has translated into 150 animal adoptions, a staggering number that far surpassed the facility’s figure from all of 2011.
County manager Ed Causey introduced interim director Lori Baxter and said progress was being made at the shelter, a huge credit to Baxter, especially in light of some health issues that kept the facility short-staffed for much of her first month on the job.
“I’m happy to report that today we saw our 150th animal leave to an adoptive home or rescue since I started,” she said Monday. “That surpassed 139 adoptions that took place in the entire year of 2011, so we’re pretty happy about that. On our Facebook page, we’ve got a little more than 1,700 followers. Most of the people from that page are from the Sampson County/Clinton area.”
She said the support from the community has been overwhelming, not only through volunteerism but tangible items needed by the shelter.
“We’ve received over $5,000 worth of donated goods in the last six weeks or so,” she said. “So, I’m really pleased with the progress so far. We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re coming along nicely.”
“Instead of being an interim, why don’t you be our director?” asked Commissioner Jarvis McLamb.
“You never know what will happen,” Baxter replied, with a laugh. “You never know.”
Baxter was named the county’s interim animal shelter director on June 22. The former animal services manager for Robeson County and animal control enforcement officer in both Cumberland and Guilford counties, Baxter was known for turning the Robeson facility around in the wake of animal neglect and abuse scandals. She brought her abilities to Sampson, where she has been quickly able to establish and grow the shelter’s online presence while building relationships with rescues organizations and volunteers.
Board chairman Billy Lockamy thanked Baxter and said he had heard “a lot of good reports” since her arrival. Commissioner Jefferson Strickland asked to what Baxter would attribute the large increase in adoptions.
“We’re just getting the animals out there,” she said. “All the animals are now listed on PetFinder, AdoptAPet, 911Pets Facebook page — there’s actually about 50 or 60 different websites out there that all of our animals listed on. There’s a tremendous amount of networking that goes on on our Facebook page. If people don’t know the animals are here, they don’t know that they need homes. They’re definitely out there now.”
Baxter said while some animals have been adopted within the county, still many others have gone to surrounding counties and other parts of the state, even out of state, through rescue organizations.
Commissioner Albert Kirby inquired as to the level of interest of volunteers and how the shelter handles those who want to volunteer. Baxter said there has been an outpouring of those who want to give their time to the shelter.
“When we were having the staffing issues that Mr. Causey spoke about, we pretty much relied on the volunteers to keep the shelter running. It’s been all positive,” said Baxter. “We now have a written volunteer program and we’re going to start doing volunteer orientations, hopefully next week, so that when volunteers come in they’re coming in with a purpose and everybody has their own job and purpose for being there. The volunteers aren’t tripping over the employees and vice-versa. Everybody comes in knowing what they needed to do.”
Kirby said when it came to those who criticized, he borrowed from the words of John Kennedy. “Criticism is easy, sincerity is subject to proof,” he noted. To that end, Kirby wondered how many of those were sincere about the welfare of the animals to the point that they were willing to roll up their sleeves and help out.
“I would have to say the answer to that is the people in Sampson County absolutely care and they’re happy to know that the animals matter too,” Baxter replied. “There’s been a tremendous amount of volunteer support.”
Causey said it was not out of the ordinary for Baxter to send him an email close to midnight with updates about the shelter, good news or other daily activities at the facility.
“I think a lot of the success she has had, with Facebook and whatever, is doing a lot of communication with people after hours,” the county manager remarked. “For example, when she goes home on the weekends, it is not unusual that she will send me at least one or two emails of things she’s done or communications she’s had, which is truly a remarkable activity.”
“I just get excited about some things and have to share it,” Baxter replied.
Baxter currently commutes from Leland, an hour away, every day. Commissioners thanked her for her hard work and dedication to the position.
“Thank you for allowing me to come in to Sampson County,” Baxter said. “People need to know, and they’ve shown, that animals matter too.”
To find out more about the Sampson County Animal Shelter, call 910-592-8493 or contact Baxter at firstname.lastname@example.org. The shelter can be found online at www.facebook.com/SampsonCountyAnimalShelter. The facility is located at 168 Agriculture Place, Clinton, off of U.S. 421 South near the Livestock Facility.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.