CHESTERFIELD — Sheriff Sam Parker and other Chesterfield County are hoping to address the needs of the county’s animal shelter in the coming weeks.
The Paws & Claws shelter was the subject of an article in The Charlotte Observer. The article described the shelter as being unclean and understaffed. It also made reference to dogs and cats that appeared to be malnourished or in need of medical attention.
Volunteer workers from shelters in Columbia and Monroe, N.C. had contacted the Observer, stating the shelter was in poor condition and had far too many animals.
Parker and shelter supervisor Brian Burch agreed that the shelter is in need of improvements, but said that the way the shelter was portrayed in the Observer article was not accurate.
“A rescue worker from Wescott Acres Pet Rescue in Columbia came in here and took the newest dog that was picked up on that particular day,” said Parker. “He was underfed and already malnourished. That is how most of them are when we find them. We are doing everything we can to make it better. We are not perfect, but the animals are always fed and the pens are cleaned up on a regular basis.”
J Chesterfield County Animal Control worker Joe Campbell said that if the animals are malnourished, it is because they are picked up that way.
“We put out about 200 pounds of dog food daily and the animals always have water,” said Campbell.
Somewhere between 40 to 70 cats and dogs are picked up on a daily basis according to Campbell.
Donna Johnson of the Chesterfield County Animal Control said that the animals are usually not in good condition when they are brought into the shelter.
“A typical scenario is that someone’s dog or cat has a litter and those puppies or kittens are just given away most of the time to someone else,” said Johnson. “Later, whoever took them may decide that they cannot afford to feed them, or just throw scraps of food out to them. They just may not take care of the puppies or kittens they have and most of them do not have all of their shots by the time we get the animals. Most of them are usually already sick and under weight when we pick them up.”
Parker and Johnson agree that one of the problems the shelter has to deal with is the lack of hours they are open for the adoption portion of the shelter.
The shelter is open to the public for adoptions for only a few hours on the weekend.
Holly Kicher of Wescott Acres said Monday that she removed seven animals from the shelter during her visit and has since adopted all of them out except one.
“I think the shelter needs to be open more hours for adoption,” said Kicher. “That would help.”
“We really need money and we need help with the shelter,” Parker said.
The county currently collects soda cans for recycling and uses the proceeds for the shelter.
Parker said that once an animal is picked up and brought to the shelter, there is a 10-day window for someone to adopt or claim the animal.
“The law says we have to do something after that time with the animals,” said Parker. “Some of them have to be quarantined due to a disease or if their mind is not right.”
“It is the desire and hope of everyone that a new shelter would be built in the near future for the animals,” said Johnson. “It is hard for some people to understand exactly what animal control does. The key here is to educate the community and try to raise money for the necessary improvements.”
The shelter currently has a staff of three people. Parker and shelter supervisor Brian Burch hope that at least one more person can be added to the staff.
“The number one thing on my list would be to have a full-time person here at this shelter,” Burch said. “That would alleviate a lot of problems. They would be able to monitor the animals that come in and take care of things as they happen. We clean the kennels and the shelter as a whole twice a day, but they would be able to clean the kennels as soon as something happened.”
Parker says that the Sheriff’s Department gained jurisdiction over the animal shelter about a month ago. He said the reasoning behind the move was law enforcement issues.
“We accepted the shelter because of the animal and litter control officers and their ability to issue citations,” Parker said. “We are getting them certified to be members of law enforcement. The county administrator and the public works director agreed that this would be a part of law enforcement.”
Chesterfield County Administrator Ronald Thurman says that the county will look at other things that can be done to enhance the current shelter or try to find a way to raise funds to build a new one. Thurman says that either way, funds are tight in the county.
“The problem that we have is that limitations that the state has put on us,” Thurman said. “There is a millage cap that the state has put on us and it’s going to be very hard to put on millage to build a facility. If we can find some other way of funding, that would be a consideration. We are currently working with the sheriff on a few ideas of what can be done to make improvements to the shelter.”
In regards to the request of having another person on staff, Thurman says that right now the county can accommodate that need. Thurman says that putting a part-time person at the shelter would begin the process of eventually placing someone there full-time.
“The sheriff and I have talked about putting a part-time person in there immediately,” Thurman said. “He has that option available to him. We are still trying to evaluate what we do need.”
Thurman says that no one has contacted him to get on the agenda for any of the county council meetings or has shown up to speak during the public comments portion of the meetings to talk about the issue. Thurman says he feels that county residents understand that the county is doing a lot of work with a small budget.
“Most people in the county understand the county’s situation in baring all of the expenses we have to bare,” Thurman said. “Not only does it include the animal shelter, but our expenses include providing law enforcement, a judicial facility and maintanence of roads. There is a tremendous amount of things we have to do in the county with very little money. We do the best we can. When we say that we are aware of problems and we are going to fix them, I think our county residents take that to heart. Folks from out of town are coming from an area that have a lot more money than we do and can provide a newer facility. We will get there though.”
Burch and Parker say that although they’ve heard of funds being raised for the shelter, they haven’t seen any donations for the shelter.
Both Parker and Burch say that people have to realize the condition the animals are in when they pick them up.
“These animals aren’t in showcase form when we get them,” Burch said. “They aren’t in the best shape. We take care of them and do anything we can to get them well.”
Parker says being a responsible animal owner could be one of the many solutions in the issue.
“People have to take better care of animals if they have them,” Parker said. “If they’re going to own an animal, they should be responsible for them. We’re going to look into doing more of the law enforcement part of it. We’re going to make sure that people understand that it’s a crime to starve animals and then let them roam. To breed animals with no sense of what they’re doing is wrong. Hopefully we will be able to start fining people if they do this.”