A week after the decision was made to put the Richmond County Animal Shelter into a new department under the Richmond County Health Department, the decision was changed to have the shelter fall under the County Manager.
For years the shelter has been run by the Humane Society.
At the County Board meeting on March 4, the county commissioners voted to establish the shelter as a new department under the jurisdiction of the Health Department.
Just a week later, on Tuesday, March 12, the county board met at Richmond County Airport at its annual planning retreat and the animal shelter was again on its agenda. It was then that the board decided to make the shelter an independent county department, instead of a division under the Health Department.
Rick Sago, county manager, said the only change that will happen with the operation of the shelter is the new director for the shelter will have to report directly to him.
“The county is going to put a lot of money into the shelter,” Sago said. He said the change from last week is because he is accountable to the county commissioners who are, in turn, accountable to the taxpayers.
The complete changeover will still take effect on May 1.
Discussions between the Humane Society and the county began in October 2012 and were centered around the shelter’s financial struggles and inability to keep the building up to code.
“The only thing we’re trying to do is let the Humane Society and any other animal advocacy group concentrate on finding these animals a home, without having to worry about how they are going maintain this big building,” Sago said.
He said that the county will provide the shelter with a “first class building and help these animals get a good home.”
At the county board meeting on March 4, Sago said the building will require several months of work before it will be up to code and a full-time shelter director will be hired.
“Nothing is changing in terms of how the (shelter) is going to operate,” said Tommy Jarrell, director of the Richmond County Health Department.
Jarrell said he doesn’t see how the change from the shelter being under the Health Department to being under the County Manager will make a difference. “I’m OK with it,” he said.
“The goal is to let the county run the shelter and partner with the Humane Society and let them (the society) concentrate on rescues and adoptions so they don’t have to worry about things like how to pay the bills and keep up the building,” Jarrell said.
Janet Woolard, acting president of the Humane Society Board, said: “We have been assured by the county that this new agreement will be a mutual benefit. The county will maintain the building and outside structures allowing the Humane Society to work towards our continued goal of placing animals in well deserved homes. We will continue to work with rescue and networking so that dogs and cats are given these opportunities. We will maintain an office at the shelter. Please continue your donations of money and supplies. We hope to hire a person to facilitate these actions.”
The shelter will remain located at 529 U.S. 74 Business in Rockingham.
— Staff Writer Laura Edington can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.