A ‘constantly evolving’ venture

Kevin Spradlin Richmond County Daily Journal

November 16, 2013

ROCKINGHAM — The new partnership between the Richmond County Animal Shelter and the Humane Society of Richmond County appears to be “constantly evolving” but working, said County Manager Rick Sago.

Are the animals lives better now than before the switch?

“Totally my opinion … but I feel like it is,” Sago said. “One thing we had, as a county, and the humane society struggled with … they couldn’t afford to keep operating the place. We’re not swimming in money either (but) it’s our responsibility to have a shelter in this county.”

The local humane society transferred ownership of the building along Highway Business 74 officially in July, though work to initiate the transfer began in March. Since that transfer, the county, under the name of the Richmond County Animal Shelter, is responsible for the housing and care of all the animals taken in at the facility.

The Humane Society of Richmond County maintains an office within the building. That’s where part-time society employee Liz Young works with families and rescues to move the animals from the shelter to permanent homes. On Thursday, Young was working to coordinate a transport of three dogs and three litters of puppies, 20 animals in all, to a rescue in New Jersey.

Including them in the census in Thursday’s count, the shelter housed 113 dogs and 57 cats. Through the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the facility is permitted to house a maximum of 50 dogs and 50 cats.

“We are overcrowded,” said Lori Tadlock, county human resources officer who is helping shelter Director Rebecca Davis implement personnel policies.

Tadlock said there is an “urgent need” to find homes for dozens of animals. And that task falls to Young, of the humane society.

“She’s looking at 60 dogs she needs to get homes for — quickly,” Tadlock said.

One county official said that if the facility were to be inspected with that population, “we would be shut down.”

Sago said that’s not the case. The state Department of Agriculture might prevent them from accepting any new animals, but the animals currently in the county’s custody would continue to be cared for. Sago said the facility has a warehouse-style portion that allows them to humanely house an additional number as long as the temperature is “correct.”

It’s not a problem that will go away overnight.

“Unfortunately, we get animals in there constantly,” Sago said.

Despite the daily flow of new animals, “the partnership, I feel, is really beginning to work.”

Sago said it’s the county’s job “to maintain and operate the shelter, manage the shelter (and) keep the place clean.”

Meanwhile, it’s the humane society’s role to coordinate rescues, fosters, adoptions.

“Sometimes, some days are better than others,” Sago said.

Judy Cagle, board member of the nonprofit humane society, said it all costs money. Young’s impending trip to New Jersey requires a health certificate for each dog, which can cost up to $150 per animal.

That doesn’t include fuel for the county-owned vehicle or food.

Young and society board members coordinate adopt-a-thons at local stores, including PetSmart and Tractor Supply. But all of that requires money and, sometimes more importantly, volunteers.

And sometimes, “we don’t have the manpower,” one humane society board member said.

The county-owned and operated shelter can not keep a dog indefinitely; officials said there are simply too many new animals taken in to allow any of them to stay forever. Though efforts are being made to follow the no-kill method, there is a cost consideration.

“It is a business,” Tadlock said.

It’s not a situation in which the county government entered lightly.

“I don’t think anybody had a desire for us to get into it,” Sago said. “I think that’s why we worked for so many months” to see if the humane society could continue to manage the facility.

Since the transition, Sago said the humane society has been “extremely cooperative” and “very good to work with.”

If interested in adoption or fostering an animal, call the Humane Society of Richmond County at 910-434-8073. The Humane Society asks people to be responsible pet owners and have your pet spayed or neutered.