Additional contracted help was approved for the Sampson County Animal Shelter, due to a cited increase in the volume of animals and visitors to the shelters. Citizens at both the Board of Commissioners and the City Council meetings also shared the need for a lowered cost spay and neuter program in light of that higher volume.
Last month, commissioners tabled a request for contracted services equal to hiring one full-time person. This week, they approved it. The shelter is currently operating with three full-time positions, including the director’s position, and two part-time positions.
“We are asking that you approve the budget amendment that would allow us the additional monies to have additional contracted services that would be the equivalent of one full-time person,” assistant county manger Susan Holder said. “That should get you to the end of this fiscal year.”
The assistant manager said that, with the increasing volume of animals and visitors, both adopters and rescue organizations, the staffing level is “inadequate” as the county tries to improve its shelter operations and grow its outreach efforts, including goals to improve spay and neuter, vaccination/rabies awareness and volunteer training programs and obtain proper Drug Enforcement Administration licenses for more humane euthanasia practices.
The contracted help, through local service Temporary Connections, would be at a cost of $12,000 to finish out the 2,080 hours in a fiscal year at a rate just over $12 per hour, not including insurance, retirement and other benefits. Finance officer David Clack said, if it was a permanent full-time position, the county should expect to spend at least $6,500 more per year.
“It’s been mentioned to maybe wait until we get a new director,” said commissioner Jarvis McLamb.
Holder said 20 applications had been received for the position, currently held by interim director Lori Baxter. She said it is hoped to have that position filled by the end of December.
“Would waiting affect the shelter’s operation now?” asked commissioner Albert Kirby.
Holder said the county should have enough money for part-time salaries in the county budget to maintain the current position through December. Clack said “it would be close” to keep it through the month, but added “I think they can make it through the end of December with the money they have right now,” Clack said.
Holder and Clack stressed that the person for which the extra allocation would be utilized was already working at the shelter on a part-time basis, and approving the $12,000 expenditure would ensure that help was maintained through June 2013.
“We’re going to save money by using the temporary service anyway,” said Kirby, making a motion to authorize the funding.
The board unanimously agreed.
Low-cost spay and neuter?
During the public comment section at the tail end of Monday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting, resident Linda S. Peterson spoke to the need for a more accessible, low-cost spay and neuter program that could cut down on euthanizations.
She said she spoke for the “ones without a voice nor a choice.”
“The people of Sampson County have got to acquire a different mindset,” she said. “There are so many people who do not even know these animals are being murdered. Whether they’re being gassed to death — which is horrific — or injected, it makes no difference. It’s still murder. The largest portion of these animals are healthy and innocent.”
She noted specifically feral cats, which are not adoptable but are still taken away from their young and others who depend on them to kill mice and other rodents only to be killed themselves. Spaying and neutering is the only way, said Peterson.
“I do not want my tax dollars paying (to kill animals),” she said. “Why can’t Sampson County step up to the plate and become a no-kill county as others have done? We need to follow their example. Stop riding around and picking up every single cat you see when you’ve not even been called to do so. Most of these cats and dogs belong to someone and by the time they locate them, most of the time they’ve already been destroyed or shipped off. There is a better way and we must do it.”
The numbers for 2012 show that, while euthanizations at the Sampson County Animal Shelter have dropped by 20 percent from the nearly 90 percent rate in 2011, two out of every three animals still never make it out of the shelter. The kill rate in recent months shows the number of euthanizations hovering over half the total animal intake.
There is a spay and neuter voucher program in place, in which the cost for the procedure is included with the overall adoption fee. The cost is $40 for cats ($10 adoption fee, $30 spay and neuter fee); $80 for male dogs ($25 adoption fee, $55 for neutering); and $105 for female dogs ($25 adoption fee, $80 for spaying).
At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, Judy Shepherd and Lindsay Peterson spoke to a grant program that could allow spay and neuter procedures to be offered at a lower cost.
Shepherd, immediate past president and current secretary for Sampson County Friends for Animals Inc., said it was vital, and one of the organization’s goals, to provide low-cost spay and neuter procedures.
“We just recently became aware of the fact that the state offers a program for lowered cost spay/neuter,” said Shepherd. “On a quarterly basis, we can send in to the state numbers indicating how many animals were spayed and who did them. The quarterly refund goes to you and then you have to refund us, but it’s all on paper.”
The program is for those who are lower income, which she noted was 300 percent of the poverty level. “When we did a little bit of calculation,” she said, “it ends up being that about 90 percent of Sampson County qualify.”
A local governmental body has to act as a sponsor for the non-profit group, in order for the county to qualify for local reimbursements, which comes from the sale of vanity license plates plus a state allocation of $250,000. “All of the requests come to a central area and come out of that fund,” said Shepherd.
She stressed that Friends for Animals would be responsible for operating the program and would still have to pay the cost of the spay and neuter until reimbursements were made. Many counties and towns have taken advantage of the program, and have been awarded with allocations “quite substantial” in some cases — the goal is to see Sampson be a part of that.
“We’re asking for the city to start it off,” she said. “We’re not asking for a decision. We want you to look at it, check it out and see what the state is offering.”
Peterson said backing the program would bring no financial onus on the city, just a contract between the city, Friends for Animals and local veterinarians (two are on board, he said, with participation open to others).
“All we’re asking of the city is that you allow the program to proceed,” he said. “You’re not sponsoring anything for the county. The amounts of money that are involved in this, the statewide pool is in excess of $500,000. If this program is in place, the citizens of Clinton can get their animals spayed or neutered with these funds available. If you don’t support the program, the funds will not be available, and it’s not going to cost the city anything.”
Mayor Lew Starling asked that city attorney Dale Johnson and city manager John Connet research the matter “thoroughly” and that it be placed back on the agenda for Jan. 8 meeting.
“Let’s not let this trail get cold,” said Starling, “let’s put it on the next available agenda.”
“It’s going to do two things,” said Peterson. “It’s a great service to the citizens of Clinton, but also it’s going to reduce the animal population. That’s something we all want.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.