Complaint filed against animal shelter

Jan. 10, 2013 @ 07:41 PM

Vance County leaders and the Vance County Animal Shelter are implementing improvements where they can and putting construction of a new shelter high on the county’s priority list in response to a Humane Society animal welfare complaint made this week.

The Humane Society of Eastern North Carolina filed a detailed complaint with the N.C. Department of Agriculture’s animal welfare division, specifying more than a dozen problems and calling them serious matters of concern.

“There is no question the facility is so old and so small that it is not providing proper housing for these animals,” said Peter MacQueen, the president of HSENC. “That facility was probably obsolete 10 or 20 years ago, but the county has so far failed to act. Governments do tend to put off capital improvements.

“The county should set a date for construction of the new facility to begin, particularly since the land and the design services have been donated.”

County Manager Jerry Ayscue said preparations are under way, and the county will definitely act in the near term as the donated land has a sunset clause of four years on its availability.

“Vance County is moving in the direction of building a new facility,” Ayscue said. “We have engaged the services of an architect for that, formed a task force and have prepared a preliminary conceptual design.”

Ayscue acknowledged there is no construction date. He said county commissioners are aware of the need to act.

Ayscue said details needing to be handled first include cost projections for construction, after construction and continued new operational funding.

“We are unable to do what needs to be done overnight,” Ayscue said. “We recognize that the new facility is needed, and we are doing the best we can under the circumstances. We will have to see how that comes together.”

The humane society report to the state noted three items of chief concern:

• Failure to maintain required indoor temperature level.

• Substandard housing for cats.

• Dog housing and sanitation problems.

“The heat that is produced by the current system is quickly lost as a result of the guillotine doors continuously being left open,” MacQueen said.

He added that cats don’t have supported resting places off of the wiry rabbit-cage surfaces, and paper food containers are used for cat litter.

MacQueen decried the caging of dogs in double-stacked kennels, using choke-poles to move dogs and cats and several other practices he said could injure animals.

Frankie Nobles, the director for Vance County’s animal shelter, said that he and his staff have been putting forward their best effort to work the best they can with what they have.

Nobles said he feels both a good and a bad side of the humane society’s report, agreeing with the added focus on the welfare of the animals and a push for a new facility, but hit hard on the details of what the shelter might be doing wrong.

“We have a contractor preparing to install an additional heating unit, that he will get it in the next couple of days,” Nobles said on Thursday. “We are installing new guillotine doors, so they’ll be closed properly. We are replacing paper and Styrofoam containers, using plastic for the cats, we’re changing that.”

There is no quick solution to the dog kennels.

“And that is something I have never seen in 25 years of doing this,” MacQueen said.

“It helps and hurts all at the same time,” Nobles said of the rebuke. “We have some corrections to make, and we are making them.”

According to MacQueen, the animal welfare division has authority to enforce rules enacted six years ago, a timeframe in which adequate education and consultation of county leaders was available.

“Now is the time to act, and require a date certain for the completion of a new facility,” MacQueen said.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.