DOBSON — A proposed ordinance change for the county’s animal shelter would make it “next to impossible” for an out-of-state animal rescue group to secure animals from the shelter for adoption, according to state officials.
The ordinance change has been tentatively placed on the Board of Commissioners agenda for March 4, just days before shelter officials and animal advocates have scheduled a sit-down to work out their differences.
A meeting between the two groups is scheduled for 4 p.m. on March 7, at the county government center in Dobson.
But if the proposed ordinance change is approved by the county board, it would mean the end of an offer put forward by a New York rescue group, according to Dr. Lee Hunter, director of the animal welfare division of the state’s Department of Agriculture.
Last month, North Shore Animal League Rescue, based in Long Island, N.Y., offered to travel to Surry County and pick up unwanted animals. The animals would be transported to New York, where they would be placed for adoption.
Recently, North Shore contacted Jane Taylor with Mayberry4Paws after being alerted to the high local kill rates by officials with the Millan Foundation, founded by famed “Dog Whisperer” Caeser Millan.
“They’ve offered to work with animal welfare groups in Surry County and pull from our shelter,” Taylor said. “If this actually happens, they will come and get the animals and provide the transportation up north.”
According to the draft ordinance, obtained by The Mount Airy News, shelter officials are proposing to include language related to animal rescue groups that reads as follows:
“Rescue Group: Surry County Animal Control will work with any rescue group or agency approved by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, in placing domesticated animals.”
Exceptions to the rule allow the shelter to refuse adoption to persons under the age of 18, anyone previously cited under the ordinance, and limits the maximum number of animals adopted to the same household to three in any given year.
Thomas Williams, a spokesman for the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center, which oversees shelter operations, said the proposed changes are designed to make the county’s code more in line with that of other counties.
“We have been working with animal shelters in seven other counties, and in looking at their ordinances we saw where a lot of the other shelters had similar language in their code,” he said.
Williams said the intention isn’t to place hurdles to rescue groups, rather to codify the relationship.
“This is just to define the working collaboration between animal shelters and rescue groups,” he said. “A lot of counties are getting on board with having all rescue groups approved by the Department of Agriculture.”
Currently, the county’s animal control ordinance, which was approved by the Board of Commissioners on June 15, 2009, does not have a provision stipulating which rescue groups can work with the county.
Taylor said that any ordinance change mandating rescue groups be approved by the agriculture department would hinder rescue efforts.
“It would be much better if they stuck with working with non-profit groups,” she said. “But if I understand this correctly there has to be a public hearing before any ordinance change, so it would premature for me to comment on it at this time.”
According to Taylor, no rescue groups in the county are approved by the Department of Agriculture.
“Most rescues in our area are foster-based,” she said. “In many cases there is no facility to inspect. This does not mean that they are not efficient, effective and totally ethical. Their records are public information per their (non-profit) status.”
Hunter, the director of the Department of Agriculture, said that requiring all rescue groups to be approved by his department would effectively end the North Shore proposal.
“What we do when we approve a rescue group is inspect their facilities, looking at the shelter and everything from how it looks to how well the animals are being cared for,” he said. “We look at whether it’s safe and any number of a variety of things.
“So it is next to impossible for us to approve rescue groups from out of state because they must have a facility that is able to be inspected in North Carolina. We couldn’t approve North Shore because they’re out of our jurisdiction,” Hunter added. “The only thing we can inspect are facilities that are located within the state of North Carolina.”
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.