Just about everyone who has shown interest in, or raised a concern about, the Sampson County Animal Shelter had a say in the hiring of its new director — they just might not have known it.
Alan Canady was hired last month as the permanent animal shelter director, serving his first day in that capacity Monday. He was introduced to the Sampson County Board of Commissioners at its Monday meeting, and prior to that, Canady, along with county manager Ed Causey and assistant manager Susan Holder sat down to talk about the shelter, its transition and his goals.
Canady was selected among 20 applicants for the job.
For the past six years, Canady worked for Cumberland County Animal Control, most recently as lead officer and also serving previously as an acting animal control supervisor for the agency. Before that, he was employed by the Sampson County Sheriff’s Department as a detention officer and the North Carolina Department of Corrections as a correctional officer.
Canady said it was a step toward a smaller operation, with more than 40 employees in animal control and services in Cumberland and less than 10 in Sampson, but a natural one for him to take.
“Having a smaller organization, you get to know the people and they seem a little more personable,” said Canady. “Sampson County is like that. I grew up five miles from Sampson County, so I’ve always felt Sampson County is my home. Working here before, the atmosphere is country, it’s laid back, a slower pace than Cumberland County. Everybody seems friendlier, and that helps.”
As part of the search for a permanent director, the county narrowed 20 initial applicants down to six and, of those, four came in for interviews. Causey said Canady’s personality and even temper, as well as his work history, set him apart from the others.
“We feel like we had a good list of candidates and we’re fortunate to have Mr. Canady,” said Causey. “As a manager, I was looking at the familiarity of working in the animal industry. I particularly like applicants that have a work history that tends to suggest they have the potential to stay with you. I also place a lot of stock on the temperament of people — what are the qualities people bring to the table that you can’t teach?”
With Canady’s easy demeanor and way of answering questions, Causey said he got the impression he could “deal with a wide range of personalities,” an observation he said was further supported by Canady’s references.
“I would say that he is someone that can face a lot of circumstances and do it in a reasonable and responsible fashion,” said Causey. “I would be surprised if he doesn’t blend well with our commissioners and the county in general. Somebody asked me the other day, ‘when you made your decision, who has influenced you?’ I said basically anybody that has ever made a comment about the animal shelter, because all those things have been considered.”
In the last year, the shelter has been the point of much discussion and public discourse.
“As far as county departments are concerned, I have probably discussed and paid more attention to the animal shelter since last April than any other department — and I mean that in a positive way,” said Causey. “From the standpoint of where we’ve been and where we are, I think there have been some very dramatic changes.”
He noted the county commissioners’ addition of personnel equal to a position and a half since the last budget approved, which is fairly “remarkable” in tight budget times and evidence of the board’s support. County managerial staff wants to see the same progress.
“We have been very receptive to lots of suggestions, but I think there have been some concerns we have not moved as fast as we could — such as getting rid of the gas chamber — but at some point in time we determined that we wanted to get a permanent director in place so, once we started these things, we could maintain some continuity,” said Causey
Causey said he is confident, with Canady, the county is well on its way.
Canady holds national animal cruelty investigation certifications, and NACA (National Animal Control Association) I and II certifications. In addition to his animal control duties, the new director is a volunteer firefighter and EMT with Eastover Fire Department. In Eastover, he grew up on a small ranch, where he helped raise cows, horses and goats.
“I’ve always liked animals and always worked with animals,” said Canady. “I knew Animal Control was the way where you do the law enforcement side but also work with animals. My first love was (investigating) animal cruelty.”
He said his experience in animal control would help in his shelter director capacity.
“Knowing both sides of it, there are a lot of things they do that someone who doesn’t have knowledge of the officer side of it might not know,” said Canady. “It’s also about helping them if they have questions. They’re under the Sheriff’s Office, but we still work the same function. We all have to work together, and I bet it will help them some too.”
As director, Canady said he wants to build on the foundation laid by interim director Lori Baxter and others, and continually improve. That means more adoptions, more relationships within the community and among rescue groups near and far. It also means finally getting rid of the gas chamber.
“What Lori started was a good start to what it needs to be, she got the ball rolling in the right direction,” said Canady. “Of course, we always want to increase adoptions and make it a little more public and get the animals out there, using social media and different organizations more.”
With reputable rescues, more animals are able to be adopted, and expound on the efforts of the government facility, Canady noted.
“They’re basically trying to do the same thing we’re trying to do, but they can keep animals longer and spend more time with them — even those that aren’t 100 percent the friendliest animals and work with them to adopt them out — where we’re constantly getting a different influx of animals every day,” he said. “If you do it right, the rescue groups can really help you.”
Social media assists in that effort.
“Most people are not purposely going to go down to the shelter to see what animals are available,” he said. “They want a way they can get on the computer and see what dogs are for adoption, and from home, say ‘I want to adopt this dog’ and call the shelter to see if it’s still there.”
It has worked well in recent months, and will continue to be utilized, county officials said.
The current Sampson County Animal Shelter Facebook page was initiated by Baxter, who is no longer an administrator of the page, Holder said. Pictures and information will still be shared via the page, but ultimately a new one will take the place of the current one, county officials said.
“We think it’s in the best interest of the county to have a Facebook page tied to a county account,” said Holder. “I think we will endeavor to have a Facebook page. We don’t want to take away the opportunity for people to be friends of the shelter’s Facebook page. The transition would include posting a notice on the existing Facebook page that, when this page comes down, we urge you to find and like the official Sampson County Animal Shelter Facebook page.”
There is no timetable for the full implementation of the page, but it is already being prepared.
“When we change, it will be simultaneous,” Causey said.
No more gas chamber
At Monday night’s meeting, commissioners accepted several grants, including a $7,000 grant from the U.S. Humane Society to phase out the use of the gas chamber for animal euthanasia (see related story in Thursday’s edition). Canady said that process is very much needed.
“The gas chamber needs to go away,” said Canady. “Even though the gas chamber is a proven form of euthanasia, it’s the old way. The gas chamber, hopefully within the next couple months, will be dismantled. We just have to make sure we have the DEA license in place so we can get the drugs and get people trained to euthanize by lethal injection. I know we have a couple already, including myself, so we’ll be able to get that done fairly quickly.”
Canady said the last application for DEA licensing was submitted by Sampson County on Dec. 21. He said the timeframe is about four to five weeks before the county can get the final permit to administer the drugs.
“It goes hand in hand with the gas chamber,” Canady noted. “We need to have some form of euthanasia or a doctor in place before we can do that. As soon as we get the DEA licensing, we can get the drugs and the gas chamber is going to go.”
As far as other shelter operations, Canady said office hours and staffing would have to be looked at further as time goes on and he gets more acclimated in the position. Currently, the shelter is open to the public from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“There are certain processes that we can do where we can possibly open earlier and maybe stay open a little bit later. We probably won’t be able to stay open until 7 or 8 at night, but maybe we could where somebody who gets off at 5 can would have time to come to the shelter and look at dogs,” he said.
The overall goal is to build lasting relationships with the community, including the general public, volunteers, rescue groups and animal welfare organizations.
“We recognize clearly that we need the support and the help of the rescue groups and other persons that are passionate about animals,” said Causey. “We believe we are poised and positioned with leadership of (Canady) to do some very positive things for the county. Are we going to have growing pains? Yes, because there are a lot of things we need to do that sometimes we are not going to be able to accomplish as quickly as we might like.”
Causey said Canady’s broad background and experiences in Cumberland County is anticipated to help Sampson County be able to enjoy those accomplishments. He and Holder noted marked improvement at the Cumberland County Animal Shelter in recent years.
When he began working in Cumberland, Canady said it was a lot like Sampson, with roughly the same number of employees facing a lot of the same challenges. It was able to grow and get better, and Canady said he wants to see that happen in Sampson — and he’s in it for the long haul.
“We are a government-run shelter so one of our main goals is to serve the public,” he said. “It’s going to take us some time, but hopefully sooner rather than later, you’ll see some drastic changes and drastic improvements. We’ll definitely get there. I look forward to a long-term career with Sampson County.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.