Community Pets in Spartanburg Co Held Hostage

The Spartanburg pound announced yesterday afternoon it would no longer accept strays from animal control due to what it claims are unpaid fees owed to it by the county.

The total outstanding balance is almost $110,000, the society’s director Sandy Christiansen said.

The county has traditionally paid the society $56,250 per month for the housing and care of stray animals, but this past July, the society raised its monthly fee by $5,000, Christiansen said.

Then, in September, it asked the county to pay an additional $17,000 a month when the shelter was forced to extend its hold times for stray animals from three days to five days.

Remember when the media reported SHS was killing pets in violation of state law by not holding them for the required 5 days and SHS was clutching its pearls, declaring that vast numbers of pets were held longer than the county’s 3 day hold period and wondering why anyone would think they were killing everything after 3 days?  From the SHS statement at the time:

Initial media attention and resulting public speculation has focused solely on stray animals who may have been euthanized after 3 days.  We would also point out that thousands of stray animals have been adopted on day 4 as well.

If it’s accurate that “thousands” of strays were routinely being held for longer than 3 days already, why does SHS suddenly need an additional $17k a month to hold pets longer than 3 days now?

The county’s side of the story:

The county hasn’t paid for October nor has it paid any rate increase since July, Christian said, and the county council said it has no plans to do so.

“We’ve told the humane society we’ve budgeted the money that we can contribute [and no more,] so that’s where it stand right now,” said Jeff Horton, the chairman of the Spartanburg County Council.

Horton said the county never received a bill for October or either misplaced it, but he says the county will pay the $56,250 on Tuesday, though it’s unclear whether that will be enough for the society to resume services.

And while the dispute goes on, it’s the pets of Spartanburg Co who suffer:

According to the Office of Environmental Enforcement, strays picked up in the meantime would be kept in animal control vehicles for up 24 hours, which is allowed by state law. The animals would be given food, water and bathroom breaks.

Just in case anyone was wondering where the Spartanburg pound’s priorities lie, there you have it.  They are willing to let pets sit in AC vehicles for up to 24 hours while they attempt to collect funds – not the agreed upon amount, mind you, but an increased amount they set themselves – from the county.

Last night, the county council received a proposal from the SC No Kill Alliance at its public meeting.  From the press release:

The SC No-Kill Alliance presented Spartanburg County Council with a package of recommended ordinances and programs to reform the county’s animal care system during tonight’s Council meeting.

John Kelly, Spokesperson for the Alliance, called on Council to “dismantle the Killing Machine,” his reference to the way animal care is currently handled in Spartanburg County.

“When, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, 80% of all animals going into the system are being killed, there is a need for reform. It does not have to be this way,” Kelly said.

The Animal Care and Protection Act, part of the measure introduced tonight, calls for mandatory reform to the animal care system, which Kelly believes will allow for more animals to be saved.

“This package has at its heart four objectives – to save the lives of healthy and treatable animals, to save taxpayer money, to improve public health and safety, and to improve our citizens’ satisfaction with county government and the animal care system in Spartanburg County,” Kelly said.

SHS says it plans to end its relationship with the county within the next year.  Sounds like an excellent time for Spartanburg Co to discuss joining this century and saying goodbye to the old catch-and-kill model of “sheltering”.  I hope the county gives the proposal from the Alliance due consideration.

9 thoughts on “Community Pets in Spartanburg Co Held Hostage

  1. Thank you for mentioning the Animal Care and Protection Act that we introduced to Spartanburg County Council last evening. We too hope to convince the Council that this Act will benefit the animal care system, be it county-run or run by a private shelter. What we need now is for every concerned Spartanburg County citizen to join us in asking Council to pass the Act. Please join us in making Spartanburg County the first No-Kill county in SC.

    Thank You!

    John Kelly, Sc No-Kill Alliance

  2. Here, here John et al. For anyone who couldn’t make it yesterday, John’s presentation was passionate yet reasonable, focused on saving lives and saving the community money.Thank you Shirley for covering the Council meeting last night.

    Furthermore, No Kill works in urban communities with big budgets or virtually no budget. It works in rural communities with big budgets and no budget. It takes getting the community at large to support the methods, which has been accomplished all over the country. The methods of No Kill work. Period.

    We have to dismantle the old regime though to create a No Kill community. Can anyone say Sandy Christiansen we demand your immediate resignation? I can!

    Finally, come on Greenville i.e. GCACS are you going to let Spartanburg beat you to becoming the first No Kill community in the Upstate. Shelly Simmons et al are you listening?

    Diana Riglet
    Publisher Critter Magazine

  3. There’s a better way South Carolina:

    Reform of these places only leads to forced compliance with MINIMUM standards of care. Is that all SC citizens want for their family companions?

    Our website ( offers a forward-thinking way to replace “animal control.” The Adoption Center model can drive municipal pounds or private operations like SHS right out of business by doing things differently.

    Though explained more on the Detailed Road Map page, this is right from the overview page (

    “6) The end of animal control – every Adoption Center will be open admission. Doing it better will put the pound or animal control facility out of business. Modelling a better way makes CONTROL unnecessary. Goodbye catch poles and SWAT uniforms! Hello to volunteer courtesy patrols and gentle handling.”

    This innovative model moves us away from pretending unenforceable laws will fix everything. This is the real deal.

    1. Shelter Revolution please consider changes to your web site — make the text dark on a lighter background for easier reading. Studies show many people have trouble reading long text when it is white on a dark background color. By the way, nice info posted there. Is there any shelter currently run like this?

  4. Um, shelter revolution, catch poles are very useful equipment when used properly. No you shouldn’t use them like MAS to drag dogs around by the neck all over the shelter, but they are very useful for catching truly aggressive dogs. Not every dog wants to be friends and go running through fields of butterflies with people. Some of them actually want to bite you, usually because they are afraid, and sometimes cutesy words and a few treats aren’t going to do the trick. When you’re out on the street trying to catch a scared dog in a high stress situation, you don’t know that dog and that dog doesn’t know you. Better to quickly use a catch pole to snag it and pop it in your truck than to put your hands near it and risk getting badly bitten. People have to keep themselves safe too.

    I hope they can get that act passed! Rooting for Spartanburg to do the right thing!

    1. In 27 years our shelter (private with the animal control contract with the county) never once had to resort to using barbaric tools like catch poles. We’ve been creative and found gentler ways to subdue reactive dogs and cats. Most of the time a simple approach and a slip lead is all that is needed. But it does take time and patience.

      This was a nasty comment dripping with condescension, “Not every dog wants to be friends and go running through fields of butterflies with people. Some of them actually want to bite you…” It was uncalled for and you would know that if you bothered to read the Detailed Road Map page on our website. This was not written by some naive person but by one of the nation’s foremost dog rehabilitation specialists who has successfully redeemed incredibly violent dogs.

      Pass CAPA but please look beyond laws and simple formulaic approaches to solving our national problem. Spartanburg could choose to be a national leader by stepping out from the crowd.

  5. OK, I don’t know the numbers for Spartanburg Animal Control, but if they want to give me $56K per month, I’ll bet I can rent a place, renovate it, and get enough workers and volunteers and have a GREAT no kill place!!

    1. Debbie, you took the words right outta’ me. Heck , that’s the 675k p/year SHS has been getting. If SHS seriously wants to stop killing, they could go ahead and attempt to rebuild damaged rescue contacts, ramp up s/n efforts , add a rescue coordinator , and post pics of ALL animals. Until I see them beginning to make any sort of positive change, I’m thinking the latest press conference is an attempt to deflect blame for SHS’ role in violating state law.

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