Events and policies concerning the Chesterfield County animal shelter continue to make headlines. Since last March, when word escaped that 22 dogs had been shot rather than euthanized, county officials have been called upon by citizens, animal rights activists and S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson to right what was wrong.
Most people agree, including Eddie O’Cain of the South Carolina Humane Society, who is charged with the duty of conducting inspections, that many improvements have been made to the shelter since last spring. But there seems to be no agreement on policies, or newly proposed pulling fees, between county council members and those directly involved with animal rescues.
Last week, Jerry Lynn Gaskins quit her position as director for the shelter because of “major disagreements in policy.” Before that, two of the three citizens appointed by council to serve on the animal shelter committee resigned their positions due to philosophical differences on how to solve the problems of animal control.
Joy Young and Nancy Kimrey both say they refuse to have anything more to do with the committee, leaving Karen Stangell as the only member of the committee that is not an elected official.
This week, County Council’s plans to hold a third and final hearing on Feb. 1, for an animal ordinance implementing pull fees, prompted negative reactions from animal rescue groups. Leading up to Wednesday’s meeting, a petition was circulating to prevent the ordinance from passing, and three different animal rescue groups were voicing concerns about the potential consequences of pull fees.
Chesterfield County Councilman Henry Plyler heads the animal committee. Serving with him are council members Douglas Curtis, Robert Cole and Crawford Moore. “As elected officials,” said Plyler, “the most important thing for us to do is provide the best services we can without over-burdening county residents.”
Chesterfield County resident Jim McGonical has said that for “too long the shelter has relied on donations and volunteers to operate a government entity. I have heard some members of council state that the shelter needs to operate as a business; I strongly disagree with that kind of thinking. The purpose of government is to provide service and protection to the community at large, that the private sector should not or cannot.”
“The reason we are fighting the fee so much,” said Nancy Bartow, rescue coordinator for Where Hope Lives, “is that to pay $39 for what would normally cost a rescue worker $10 to $12 to do … is ridiculous.”
According to Bartow, if the ordinance is implemented, “a local person can get a fully vetted dog for $100, but a rescue group would pay $39 and still have to pay vetting, boarding and transport costs.”
“The county council thinks that rescues are making money off the animals, which just isn’t the case,” Bartow said.
“I have rescued 1,500 animals from Chesterfield County in the last three years,” said Michelle Nuefeld. “Just in the past two weeks I have pulled over 25 dogs to safety. I would love nothing more than to continue to save lives from Chesterfield County. But if the council implements a pull fee that is unreasonable, I will be forced to walk away from Chesterfield and turn to surrounding counties instead. Sadly, we all know only too well there’s no shortage of animals to rescue.”
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, ext. 229, or by email at email@example.com.