In January of this year, McDowell County commissioners approved a group called McDowell County Animal Outreach (MCAO) to run the county shelter. State inspectors approved an old car dealership building for use as the shelter site. The state inspected the site in March, April and May, noting violations of the state Animal Welfare Act. MCAO’s failure to correct the violations has resulted in a $1000 fine. Among the findings:
- Dirty kennels
- Animals without water
- One wire crate contained 5 dogs
- Large cracks in the floor
- Animals being kept in unventilated areas, not approved for housing
- Isolation building “heavily soiled at the time of inspection with food, urine, feces and hair.”
- Cats stacked in unsecured crates
- Cats in crates on unstable surfaces such as tires and storage containers
- Records lacking information including medicine administration
- Animal food bowls sitting in stagnant water in the bathroom
- Dirty litter boxes stacked on the floor
- Insufficient staff to care for the number of animals housed
In addition, there have been concerns about the spread of disease resulting in pet killings at the shelter:
“Dirty mop water, foot baths and equipment baths were found that suggest that disease could be spread easily,” read the inspector’s report. “After conversing with a permanent volunteer, it was determined that a veterinarian was contacted who gave recommendations regarding the sickness at this facility. The volunteer also confirmed that these recommendations are not being adhered to. The volunteer confirmed that several animals that were adopted have been returned to the facility due to sickness. Puppies were present at the facility that appeared lethargic and had loose stool. The potential cause of these symptoms is currently unknown.”
Carol Ferebee, assistant director of MCAO, indicates the group intends to contest the fine. She cites lack of guidance from the state on how to correct problems, the group’s inexperience in running a shelter and a lack of dependable volunteers as the reasons for the violations.
On the one hand, I would be inclined to give a group that is just starting out the benefit of the doubt. They are probably well intentioned people who care about pets and, depending on the luck of the draw, an inspector at even the best shelter is likely to find some dirty kennels. On the other hand, it shouldn’t require a state inspector to tell you it’s wrong to leave animals without water. And you are never going to attract quality volunteers if you are asking them to care for cats stacked in crates and on tires in an unventilated area. That is just plain miserable for those cats and it should never have been allowed to happen.
Ferebee said MCAO is doing an excellent job in caring for homeless cats and dogs and making sure they have good homes, despite the amount of funding and the loss of good volunteer help.
“We continually improve,” she said. “Our goal is to have a 100-percent adoption rate. There is no animal abuse here.”
It’s little wonder volunteers quit. I only hope Ms. Ferebee is contending that the group does “an excellent job” because she’s trying to put the best possible spin on a bad situation. That is, I hope she doesn’t truly believe that.