ROCKINGHAM — Euthanasia rates and this year’s budget are both higher at the Richmond County Animal Shelter than desired, but there’s hope for 2014 and beyond.
The county took over management and operation of the shelter on July 1 from the Humane Society of Richmond County. The Humane Society continues to work from of the shelter and is focused solely on adoptions. The transfer of shelter ownership helped to the financial and organizational problems faced by the Humane Society.
“It gives them an opportunity to get back to what they’re awesome at, fostering, rescuing and getting the animals adopted,” said Rebecca Davis, director of the shelter and formerly of the Humane Society.
The funds that the shelter now have has definitely been an improvement on the operation of the facility. The adopted budget for the fiscal year of 2013-2014 totaled t $257,025. The expenditures year-to-date have totaled $160,288.25, or 58 percent of the total budget — slightly over the halfway mark of the budget as the year is at its midway point. This leaves $115,495.04, or 42 percent, left of the budget.
“We should be at 50 percent, so we are running a little over budget, however we had a lot of early expenses and things are beginning to level off,” said Rick Sago, county manager.
Before the county took over the shelter, money was put in renovating the building including around $30,000 to replace all the flooring, Davis said.
While county officials acknowledge the transition hasn’t been perfect, staff received good news after an unannounced inspection on Dec. 16 by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The shelter passed with flying colors. Sure, there was a note by the inspector of chipping of the flooring that needed to be addressed. This is to be expected, Davis said. With the way the animals claw at the floor, damages from wear and tear are normal.
Sago acknowledged there is work to be done to save animals’ lives. In the final six months of 2013, the shelter took in 647 dogs, while 308 of them — 47.6 percent — were euthanized. Of the 260 cats taken in during that same time period, 216 of them — 83 percent — have been euthanized. Statistics for euthanasia and adoptions prior to the July 1 transfer were unavailable, officials said, apparently lost when updating its record keeping system.
In addition, 43 dogs and 11 cats have died while in custody and four dogs and 11 cats have escaped. A total of 162 dogs and 46 cats have been adopted out.
“I know that we have also have other animal advocates pulling from our shelter now,” Sago said. “We will continue to build partnerships with the animal agencies to get our adoption (and) rescue rate higher.”
The shelter has a total of five full-time employees and three part-time employees. Overtime for these workers is an issue since their job runs at all hours of the day.
“We never leave the building until each animal here is tended to at least two times a day,” Davis said.
Volunteers at the shelter are always welcomed and accepted to help with the everyday needs of these animals.
“We do have a good number of volunteers, but we can always use more,” Davis said. “Sometimes we assign people to do certain tasks, but it’s whatever the individual has to offer. We try to make sure we accommodate everyone, and you will never be asked to do something you don’t want to do.”
Though volunteer help is always on the list, there are other areas the shelter looks to improve in the coming future. The spaying and neutering of the animals that come through the shelter is probably one of the top priorities.
“We want to decrease the number of unwanted animals,” Davis said.
Davis related to a recent incident in which three puppies, born only an hour earlier, were abandoned in the cold in a wet box in the parking lot of the shelter.
“They almost froze to death,” Davis said. “They’re now warm and safe.”
Richmond County residents that adopt animals adopted from the shelter will receive a discount on the spaying and neutering. Simply show up at the shelter within 60 days of adoption or when the animal is 12 weeks old. The shelter takes care of the transportation of these animals to the facility that fixes them.
The adoption efforts of the Humane Society have been working better in recent times, but the shelter would also love to see the adoption numbers go up, Sago said. That along with helping to provide additional education and public outreach on proper animal care.
“They really are family members,” Davis said.