In February 2016, the Rowan Co pound in NC unveiled a new cat wing. The $1.1 million, 160 cage area of the facility was supposed to be an enormous upgrade for cats who were previously housed in groups inside dog runs. Anti-microbial floors, an isolation area and separate ventilation systems for each room were designed to keep cats healthy. Donor Christine Morykwas paid the bill but she didn’t simply hand over the money and hope for the best. She demanded better care for the cats:
[…]Morykwas required Rowan County to adopt specific medical treatment and sanitation protocols.
[F]our full-time staff members and four part-time staff members who are specifically responsible for cleaning the cat wing [were added].
On August 23, the state of NC failed Rowan Co on its routine inspection, primarily because of the suck-ass conditions in the cat wing:
The inspection found feces smeared on the inside of cat cages, dirty and wet cage surfaces, a generally messy cat isolation room, a record keeping system that makes it hard to identify cats, peeling paint in dog holding areas and other issues.
In the stray cat room, an inspector found three cat cages that were “very dirty.” One of the cages contained a mother cat and five kittens and was streaked with feces and litter.
Upon seeing all the filth in the cat wing, the inspector asked when the afternoon cleaning begins. The director responded with a reassuring *shrug*. Another staffer offered that the inspector happened to be there on the only weekday when they actually have no afternoon cleaning crew but said the staff did do spot cleaning. The inspector, who was there more than 2 hours that afternoon, noted that she did not see any evidence of spot cleaning. In fact, no one bothered to clean up even the most egregious offenses the inspector was pointing out during the time she was there.
The fancy anti-microbial floors hadn’t been swept or mopped, apparently in some time.
There were no cage cards or any other animal records in the cat wing. When the inspector asked to see records for cats under medical care, she was told there were no paper records as everything was done on the computer. When she asked to see the computer records, the staff was unable to access them.
The Salisbury Post asked Rowan County Manager Aaron Church about the failed inspection and he issued this really swell statement:
“Summer brings an increase of animals,” he said in an emailed response. “This is our first summer with the cat wing and issues during the beginning are to be expected. However, we have excellent staff and fully expect that things will continue to improve while providing a service to the citizens and animals of Rowan County.”
Your “excellent” staff members are not doing their jobs. The “issues” are negligence and/or incompetence. In order to “continue to improve” you have to have some improvement to start with. It’s been 6 months. How much longer do you need to figure out that shit smeared cages are supposed to be cleaned? Did Rowan Co think the anti-microbial floors were going to sweep themselves?
The county manager told WCCB that the pound’s veterinarian, Dr. Robert Krawczyk, was fired on August 23 – the date of the failed inspection. He’d only been on the job for 3 weeks:
Church tells me the decision to terminate Krawczyk was, in part due to the inspection, as well as previous issues.
The termination letter (see pictures) accuses Krawczyk of “improper comments to staff and visitors,” “failure to properly document medications,” “failure to complete an assigned daily task,” and “lack of attention to detail in applying medical treatment and evaluations.”
Yes, he definitely sounds excellent. You know who else is excellent?
Church tells me he and Shelter Director Bob Pendergrass talked about the inspection for three hours today. He says, “Bob doing an excellent job,” and, “Bob is new to the position and we have a lot of employees.”
To be exact, there are 8 animal control enforcement officers, 4 full time shelter attendants and 4 part time shelter attendants as well as the director and the shelter vet (now vacant; the search for a new shelter vet is already underway, says Church.).
Oh man, it’s a hard job. I feel sooooooooo sorry for people who have hard jobs. It sounds like work. Oh the humanity! Somehow, presumably during the never ending toil of hard labor and beneath a sweaty brow, the director managed a response:
Pendergrass sent me a statement today, that says, “The purpose of the state inspections is to help us be aware of and address any issues that their experience reveals during the inspection so that we can to do a better job. Staff is meeting internally and working hard to come up with a plan to address those concerns with a plan of action. We have a great staff and will make sure that they are addressed thoroughly.”
Great staff? Why I’ve heard they’re excellent!
But let’s get one thing straight, bub: The purpose of the state inspections is not to babysit you and remind you to wash your hands before dinner and make your bed. The purpose of the state inspections is to hold you accountable – to reassure taxpayers that you are at least meeting the bare minimum standards required to prevent you from being shut down. You failed. You should be exceeding these rock bottom minimums by a mile – because it’s your job.
Three days after the failed inspection, the Salisbury Post published a piece from the Rowan Co pound director. In it, he perpetuates the long debunked myth of pet overpopulation and touts his facility’s “outstanding record” which you know, long live irony.
And since we have just enough room left for one more enabler, enter County Commissioner Craig Pierce:
Despite the improvements, he said county officials “aren’t sitting on our laurels” and continue to pursue animal-related policy changes. The alternative, he said, is for the Rowan County Animal Shelter to euthanize a larger percentage of its animals.
“If all we had to do was euthanize the animals, we could have the cleanest shelter ever,” Pierce said.
Oh dear. Maybe you should just go sit on your laurels. In that corner over there. No waaaaay over there. Keep going. I’ll tell you when to stop.
Ms. Morykwas is not pleased:
“Just like you can lead a horse to water, you give these people a million-dollar cat wing, and they still can’t do it right,” she said in an interview with the Salisbury Post. “I don’t regret it, but I’m saddened by what’s going on. It would convince me not to invest anything else.”
“There just needs to be a complete overhaul,” she said. “Maybe one of these centuries, we will finally get someone in there that knows what they’re doing.”
Rowan Co is not committed to lifesaving. Taxpayers need to demand better – starting with their county officials all the way down to part-time shelter staff. It takes a special kind of incompetence to completely screw up a million dollar donation in a matter of months (or weeks, in the vet’s case). I’d hate to think what these people are capable of over the long term – and what their enablers are capable of attempting to justify.