By John Peters
May 24, 2014
There’s something wrong at the Surry County Animal Shelter.
Something horribly wrong.
First, it is important that all understand an animal shelter can only handle so much traffic, can keep only so many animals for any length of time. Surry County’s shelter has for years been one of the worst in the state when it comes to kill rates of animals going in verses the number adopted out.
The primary fault for that rests with the citizens of Surry County, the ones who refuse to properly watch over their pets, the people who do not spay or neuter their animals, who allow them to run wild through the county.
Local animal rights groups have gone to great lengths to educate the public about ways to properly take care of pets, there has even been money available to help those who cannot afford to spay or neuter their animals.
At this point, to be blunt, there are a whole lot of people who are willingly too ignorant to take advantage of that education and help, or the people are simply too sorry to take care of their pets.
Having said all of that, once an animal enters the shelter, it is the responsibility of county staff to properly and humanely take care of that animal. It is the responsibility of county staff to work with approved, legitimate adoption agencies willing to find good, proper homes for these animals.
That responsibility rests with the rank-and-file people doing the grunt work in the shelter, it rests with the management of the shelter, it rests with the top official in the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center which oversees the shelter management, and ultimately it rests with the board of commissioners.
For years the board has known there is a problem. Board members have had to entangle themselves with the operations of the shelter, have had to try to justify the actions, or inaction, of staff there while dealing with an upset public. In recent months they’ve talked of spending millions of dollars on upgrading the shelter, or replacing it with a larger facility.
While having a larger shelter would alleviate some of the issues, the main problems lie with those running the operation, and until the board deals with that, it could build the Taj Mahal of shelters and we would still be right back here with county residents angry over animals needlessly killed there.
The latest episode which has raised the ire of so many people deals with five puppies that were dropped off at the shelter on Friday, May 16. The animals were taken there by a family that didn’t feel they had the wherewithal to adequately care for the pets — a responsible act in most communities.
Local animal rights activists learned of the animals being dropped there and claim they were assured they had until Monday to find an adoption service to take the puppies.
Instead, they learned on Monday morning the animals were killed at the shelter on Friday afternoon.
The county claims they never made any commitments regarding holding the animals, and that leaves us all with a they said vs. they said scenario, and in such cases it’s often difficult to know precisely where the truth lies.
Given the shelter’s record, however, we have a hard time accepting the version of the story given out by the county.
That dispute aside, however, the puppies were clearly healthy and the kind of animals that would make wonderful pets for good, caring homes. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize taking care of those puppies for a couple of days would likely bring about a good result for all involved.
Yet the shelter management ordered them to be killed, the same day they were brought in.
That leaves us to question — does the management there simply not care about the animals or the public which pays its bills through tax dollars, or is there someone there who takes a perverse glee in ordering the execution of the animals, knowing the emotional distress that puts on those trying to save the pets?
We don’t know the answer to that question, but at this point those seem to be the only two viable reasons for what is going on there. And if the board of commissioners can’t see that, and refuses to intercede and put an end to it, then the commissioners are as guilty as those ordering the deaths.