Questions on Marion Co Pound, Again

Offered without comment (at this point), the Paws to the Rescue policies regarding release of dogs at the Marion Co pound in SC, as posted on Facebook:

Pups in Need of Sponsorship
By Kristin Kucsma (Albums)
Do you want to SAVE a PUP’S LIFE but cannot rescue or adopt? Please consider sponsoring a pup! EVERY PUP CURRENTLY in this album has a CONFIRMED RESCUE but they are NOT SAFE. Most will NOT make it out of the shelter if we do not raise funds for them. Every once in awhile, we will release pups whose bills have not been paid but as a general practice we will not do this. Pups must be vetted prior to transport; our vet demands payment in full prior to vetting and we (see below) do not receive enough money from the County to cover the full cost of vetting.

Sponsorship allows us to do two things:

1) Sponsorship money allows us to make sure a pup’s outstanding bills are paid

The true cost of saving a pup reflects the full cost of getting a pup to safety from the time he/she enters the shelter until the time he/she is safely with a rescue or in a forever home. This cost includes, but is not limited to, the following: the cost of food on a daily basis for the pup; any and all necessary medications and vaccinations required by a pup during his/her stay at the shelter and to prepare him/her for transport; payroll to pay employees to care for the pups during their stay at the shelter, etc.

The County of Marion provides Paws to the Rescue (PTTR), the 501(c)(3) organization that manages the shelter, $53,000 per year to run the shelter. The shelter took in approximately 3,000 dogs in 2011. That breaks down to $18 per dog – not $18 per dog per day – $18 per dog PERIOD. That was “plenty” of money when the kill rate at the shelter (pre-PTTR) was 95%+ . It is not nearly enough to support the transformation of this shelter into a low- or no-kill facility.

Consider the pup who stays at the shelter for just two weeks prior to rescue or transport. That is two (2) weeks’ worth of food, possible meds, payroll, etc. That amounts to considerably more than $18. Many pups remain at the shelter for longer than that because we are blessed with a director who will bend over backwards and give us extra time to save these beautiful creatures.

We cannot save these pups if we do not have time to find rescues and adopters, and we cannot “buy” time if we do not have the financial resources to keep the pups alive and healthy (mentally and physically) while we arrange rescue, transport and adoption for them.

2) Sponsorship money also allows us to assist rescues with the fees to have pups vetted, transported to them and, in certain cases, with the cost of HW treatment, so that they can find forever homes for these beautiful boys and girls.

Pups in this album are located in the Marion County Animal Shelter in Mullins SC. Some have rescues committed to them but they need sponsorship money to assist with either vetting, transport and/or HW treatment. In other cases, rescues may not require financial assistance but pups have outstanding bills that must be paid. If the outstanding bills of one pup are not paid, other pups suffer because we will not have adequate resources to buy food, purchase meds, hire additional staff, etc.

This shelter is severely overcrowded and is HIGH KILL so we need to raise these funds so that we can get these pups out right away. Any assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much for your continued support ♥

If you have any questions or require any further information about the Marion County Shelter and specifically regarding issues of sponsorship, please do not hesitate to email me at kucsmak@gmail.com.

With warm regards,
Kristin Kucsma, Treasurer
Paws to the Rescue
A registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization

What do you make of these policies?

I don’t know what’s going on at the Marion County shelter in SC

In November, a reader contacted me asking if I would consider doing a post on the shelter where she volunteers.  She explained that everyone involved with the Marion Co shelter in SC was working hard to turn things around and they had made significant improvements in saving pets’ lives.  This volunteer sent me some information about the shelter including this local TV news clip and an online article.  I was delighted to hear this good news and agreed that I would love to help promote this shelter.

I asked if the shelter stats were available online or if I could get copies of them for my post since I wanted to show the improvements the shelter had made over time.  The reader referred me to a couple of the staff with Paws to the Rescue – the group which holds a contract with the county to operate the shelter.  I explained to Paws to the Rescue that I wanted to help promote the shelter via the blog and that I needed the monthly stats.  They gave me the runaround and told me to file a FOIA request and to call the county.  This surprised me more than a little but I did as requested.  On November 28, 2011, under the SC Freedom of Information Act, I requested the Marion Co Animal Control shelter’s monthly statistics/reports, to include complete intake and outcome figures, for the months of January through October 2011.  The shelter director, Jen Nall, responded as follows:

Hi there – are you the one that called the county administrator asking for information?

The current statistics for this year to date are:

Intakes = 2,700
Adopted/Rescued = ~71%
PTS (Put to Sleep) = ~29%
RTO (Returned to Owner) = ~1%

Let me know if you have any other questions.
Thank you,
Jen

Since these estimated figures did not fulfill my FOIA request, I replied thusly:

Hi Jen,

Yes, I called the county administrator trying to find the custodian of records for the shelter.  They told me to contact you.  While I appreciate the numbers you provided below, I’m actually looking for the shelter’s detailed monthly reports, as specified in my FOIA request.  If your shelter does not maintain these monthly reports but instead just does one yearly detailed report, please let me know and I will refile the request for the 2011 report in January.

Thank you,
Shirley

I received no response and so I sent the shelter director a status update request on 12-6-11.  Again, no response so I sent a second status update request on 12-12-11.  Yet again, no response from the shelter director.  SC law requires a response to FOIA requests within 15 business days.  Since the time allotted by law was close to expiring, I contacted County Administrator Tim Harper on 12-13-11 to see if he could assist.  After talking with him, I received some stats from the director but they did not fulfill my FOIA request which to reiterate, I had only filed at their direction in order to write a supportive post about their shelter.

I advised the director and the county administrator that the figures I received were incomplete.  I got more runaround from the staff.  I tried e-mailing the county administrator again – twice.  No response.  The FOIA deadline came and went and I waited nearly two more weeks to see if the stats might be sent.  Nope.

So this is my post on the Marion Co shelter.  It’s not what I had hoped it would be.  They might be doing good work there as far as saving pets’ lives but I couldn’t get the monthly stats to verify that and to show how things have improved (assuming they have).  To the reader who initially asked me to help promote her shelter – I’m sorry.  I tried.  I’m not planning to sue over the unfulfilled FOIA request but the county and the shelter director might take note that the next person who files a FOIA request and gets the runaround could be inclined to pursue the matter in the courts, as allowed by law.

The FOIA is there for a reason – because the public has a right to know what agencies are doing with taxpayers’ money.  Beyond that, if someone comes knocking on your door asking to help promote your shelter, it’s just good manners to oblige a reasonable request.

Changes at Marion Co Animal Shelter in SC

Some of you may remember when a South Carolina politician, Kent Williams, adopted a German Shepherd bitch from the Marion Co Animal Shelter in order to breed her (in violation of state law). In 2008, after the bitch was left to roam the streets regularly and while in heat, she became pregnant and Senator Williams decided he didn’t want to deal with the problem he created so called Animal Control to pick her up when she was due to whelp. As this story unfolded, it shed light on the terrible conditions at the shelter.

A group called Paws to the Rescue took over the shelter from the county in October 2008:

Before Paws to the Rescue took over for the county, the shelter had no heat, animals turned in to the shelter were disappearing and often, they were left with no food or water.

[…]

The group has installed heaters in the dog runs and cat room, improved the living conditions for the animals turned in and provided medical care such as vaccinations and spaying and neutering of all cats and dogs adopted from the shelter. All dogs are tested for heartworm, and emergency care and treatment can begin right at the shelter if local veterinarians’ offices are closed.

Adult dogs and puppies are now kept separately to help guard against the risk of illnesses such as Parvo. The adult dogs are also allowed outside to play in large grassy areas while their kennels are cleaned every day.

“Mentally that’s very good for the dogs,” [executive director Jen] Nall said. “It keeps them from going cage crazy.”

The group also keeps male and female dogs separated to guard against fighting and more unwanted puppies.

Paws to the Rescue has also been able to team up with several rescue groups through out the county to transport dogs to shelters that have adopters waiting to provide homes for the unwanted animals. This weekend they will transport 20 dogs and puppies to rescues in the Northeast.

Volunteer Irene Miller uses Web sites such as PetFinder.com and Facebook to spread the word about the animals available for adoption from the shelter.
“I Facebook, I Tweet, I foster dogs,” Miller said. “I’ll do anything I can.”

All sounds good. But the article also goes over the shelter’s 2009 kill numbers:

“We brought in 2,700 animals last year, which is two and one half the amount we thought we’d bring in,” Nall said. “We were able to get 750 either adopted or to rescue.”

That’s a kill rate of roughly 73%. I hope the community works with the shelter in 2010 in order to dramatically decrease the kill rate. So many positive changes have taken place already but if the end result is that nearly 3 out of every 4 pets entering the shelter wind up in the landfill, that’s not “change we can believe in”.

As for Senator Kent Williams, he won re-election in 2008 and his current term ends in 2012.

Marion County Receives Offer to Take Over Shelter

SC State Senator Kent Williams’ local shelter (where he dumped his German Shepherd in March after allowing her to become pregnant while repeatedly roaming loose) has been advertising for someone to take over the shelter. A group called Paws to the Rescue who pulls dogs from the Marion County Animal Shelter regularly has submitted a proposal. The County Administrator apparently has some quibbles over the county’s financial responsibilities as outlined in the proposal. The one and only offer to take over the shelter has been sent to a committee for further review. yawn. I only hope some action is taken sooner than in the Kent Williams case – which was never, actually.

More on Marion County Shame


South Carolina State Senator Kent Williams violated state and county laws when he failed to spay a German Shepherd bitch he adopted from the Marion County Animal Shelter – a kill shelter – last year. He said he intended to breed her but when she was bred (presumably to an unknown sire she encountered while roaming the streets) he waited until just before she was ready to whelp before having animal control pick her up and bring her back to the kill shelter in March 2008. The Senator has not been charged to my knowledge.

Coincidentally (I guess), the Marion County Council held a meeting regarding the dreadful conditions at the shelter around this same time. From the minutes:

Vice Chairwoman Smith requested the Clerk to read the report Committee No. 2, which met on Thursday, March 20, 2008, at 5:30 P.M., at the Marion County Administration Building, with Chairwoman Smith, Mrs. Rogers, and Mr. Shaw, County Administrator and Clerk to Council. The Committee met with four members of the Humane Society, which addressed their concerns in regards to the Marion County Animal Shelter. Mr. Eleanor Kitchens, Ms. Marjorie Byrd, Ms. Pat Koch and Mr. Bob Blue. The organization named a few main priorities for the Marion County Animal Shelter: They are as follows:

1. A dated digital photo identification number for every animal taken in, noting where they were picked up.

2. No wetting of animals during cage cleaning.

3. Heating and cooling in all areas.

4. Standard immunizations on all puppies when old enough.

5. A person in charge who has the background and knowledge to run a shelter.

6. Workers who will do all they can to work with rescue groups so the fewest number of animals are put down.

Mr. Bob Blue told the committee that one of the Human [sic] Society main objectives is to control the animal population of Marion County by offering a cash rebate of $40 to residents who provides proof that their animals were spayed or neutered.
Chairwoman Smith emphasized to the Human [sic] Society members that if they witness any wrongdoing at the shelter to contact Mr. Harper.

Yes Mr. Harper, I believe I will be contacting you.

This story includes a comment from a reader who claims to be a former employee of the shelter where Williams left his pregnant German Shepherd to (quite possibly) die. She describes interactions she had with Williams regarding a previous dog. If the account is accurate, clearly this is not a temporary lapse in judgment type situation with the GSD but rather a pattern of troubling behavior. And the irony of Williams’ Oprah connection is not lost on me. Oprah recently did her part to shed light on the miserable lives of dogs in puppy mills and vowed to adopt all her future dogs from shelters. Too bad she doesn’t make it down to the Marion County Animal Shelter very often – we might see another expose.

There is a lame-o excuse from the Senator here but my favorite quote from him on the subject is this: “As a citizen, I exercised my right to surrender the animal to the shelter.” Senator Williams: Exercise this.

Please let these people know how you feel about this story and request the media to cover it:

Senator Kent M. Williams
602 Gressette Bldg.
Columbia, SC 29201

(803) 212-6008
E-Mail Address: WILLIAMSK@scsenate.org
*********

Marion County Animal Shelter
123 Dog and Cat Ct.
Mullins, SC 29574

(843) 423-8370
*********

Timothy Harper, County Administrator
P.O. Box 183
Marion, SC 29571-0183

(843) 423-3904

(Kent Williams is the Deputy County Administrator)
*********

The State Newspaper – Columbia, SC
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