Rowan Co Pound Gets a Million Dollar Donation and Totally Blows It

rowan co cat
Cat ID #A103582 at the Rowan Co pound, as pictured on Petfinder.

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.

(Thanks Lisa.)

20 thoughts on “Rowan Co Pound Gets a Million Dollar Donation and Totally Blows It

  1. “Excellent staff”, yet he also mentions high turnover… hmm.

    Since no one was apparently very concerned about the inspector’s visit, I’m going to have to assume that no one expected to be fired for its results. Guess the vet was surprised. But what about everyone else who apparently can’t give a rat’s ass?

    No cage cards? Are you shitting me? Is this place being run by idiots? Oh wait, yes, it is.

  2. The tragedy, besides the animals who have to live (and die) in that special kind of hell hole, is what good that amount of money could/should have resulted in. Must be the inspector doesn’t have much authority to see things change, either. Same old, different place. Only difference is that this place has/had the finances to make good things happen for the cats. (There goes that excuse of not enough resources . . .)

  3. Apparently, keeping an animal shelter clean and maintaining proper records is super tricky, but by golly Rowan County officials are going to ask “the hard questions of why this happened and how this happened and what changes are being put in place to ensure it never happens again.”

    Unpaid volunteers would probably be happy to do a good job keeping the kitties’ environment clean and maintaining records, but they have to be willing to submit to a background check and drug screening first:

    1. I’m sure volunteers would help–sometimes people who work for free care more than paid staff do. As for background check/drug screen, I’d have been happy to do that for the shelter where I volunteer if they required it. That wouldn’t stand in the way of my wanting to help, and I don’t think it should for anyone else.

      1. Except they still have to “approve” of you. And you have to be willing to put up with their crap and apathy towards the animals.

      2. @mikken, so what? I’ve volunteered for the same shelter for almost 4 years, and I’ve seen volunteers quit because they didn’t like X shelter employee, or Y ACO was disrespectful to them. I’m still there, because the animals don’t give a rat’s ass if the staff is giving you crap, and it’s about the animals, not the sometimes flawed humans. If the staff is apathetic, at least YOU care and you do what you can to help. Our shelter has made a lot of improvements thanks to volunteers caring and not giving up. Just my 2 cents.

      3. Not everyone is willing/able to tolerate emotional abuse from shelter staff. Nor are they capable of witnessing animal abuse/neglect on a regular basis combined with no means to change it. Volunteering under those circumstances can result in some very serious emotional distress.

        Leaving because of a hostile work environment is not the same as flouncing off because of personality conflict. Shelters that abuse volunteers tend to lose the very best of people – and keep the worst.

      4. Point taken on the emotional abuse, though animal abuse/neglect can be reported and hopefully changed. I’ve seen it happen. My original comment was addressing the issue that volunteers have to have a background check and drug screen, which I don’t feel should stop anyone from volunteering if they truly want to.

  4. This is the same County where their was a post on Facebook of one of these excellent employees dragging a terrier type dog across the parking lot,into the shelter,on a catch pole where you could see this dog was really really really struggling.I dealt with Rowan County many years ago as a rescuer,they have not changed,they are as much of a piece of crap as ever.It is up to your citizens to change this neglect and abuse to these animals!!!

  5. well somebody better be looking into whose pockets are the fullest because they didnt do this place any justice!

  6. This article was a funny read but only because of the satire and how well written it is. How difficult is it to have a chore chart for the employees? We had them at Girl Scouts for camping and 4th graders could keep up. Hey, using pictures of what to do i.e bucket and mop, the younger ones did not even need to know how to read. Very sad for the animals who have no choice but to live in what is provided. I would be furious if I were the donor! What is wrong with this staff???? The day goes by faster when busy! Try it.

  7. tell me ,again , how more money , a bigger building , and more staff are all that is needed to save animals..

  8. There needs to be a purge of employees at that hellhole. The only reason they still have a job is because they’re related to someone. Voters need to make this a major election issue. If the County Council, Vote out those standing in the way of progress.

    It would also be a good idea to have an audit of the animal shelter.

  9. It is sad that someone put so much effort and financial support into a place that will not change until they totally clean house, and I mean both ways. Get a competent staff and vote out and get rid the current government officials. Starting from that Aaron Church. Someone needs to look into that whole scenario. Why would they hire a man who worked with Wildlife or Parks department for a job that has entirely different experience and educational requirements?? Dealing with animal sheltering of domestic is a whole different thing then wild life and parks. !

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