08/03/06 — Shelter plan will get close look

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Shelter plan will get close look

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on August 3, 2006 1:53 PM

Unless private contributions to a new Wayne County animal shelter increase dramatically over the next few months, the shelter that is eventually built might not meet the expectations of animal rights supporters who say the existing shelter is inadequate.

County commissioners have said they hope to start construction in January. They have allocated $750,000 toward the project, saying they were looking to county residents to foot the rest of the bill -- which could be as much as $250,000 if the shelter is built according to estimates.

So far, only about $16,500 has been raised.

"If we don't have the money, I don't think construction would be held up, but we might have to make it smaller and cut certain things out of the plan," Commissioner Bud Gray said Wednesday.

A floor plan developed by the Wayne Animal Control Advisory Board and the county's Buildings and Grounds department more than two years ago estimated the cost of building a 10,000 square-foot shelter at about $1.2 million.

County Manager Lee Smith said in May that construction costs have continued to increase over the past year. That could mean the public's share of the cost is closer to $500,000 for an adequate animal shelter, said Jean Hollowell, a member of the county's Animal Control Advisory Board and the local chapter of the Humane Society.

Mrs. Hollowell and other residents involved with Concerned Citizens of Wayne County, an organization formed to seek the construction of a new shelter, said many people are leery about donating to the cause because they want the commissioners' assurance that new animal-control policies will be put in place at the new shelter.

"When you have something that's considered a public-private venture and the public is asked to contribute, then the public should have a stake in what happens," Mrs. Hollowell said.

Members of the Humane Society and Concerned Citizens are asking the commissioners to consider policy changes help decrease the unwanted pet population and treat the shelter's animals in a more humane fashion.

Some of the changes include hiring a shelter director, increasing employee training, expanding the shelter's operating hours, instituting a more humane euthanasia procedure, allowing volunteers to work at the shelter and providing emergency care to injured or sick animals through local veterinarians.

The commissioners included money in the 2006-07 budget for a shelter director, but the job has not been filled. Commissioners have held differing views on when a director is needed.

"Having a director is going to make the whole process better. I would imagine that the director would be on board before or when we start construction," Gray said.

Commissioner John Bell said the board has not discussed who should be hired or when to hire the person, because the shelter is the most important factor at this point.

"That could be a step after construction. We want to be ready to go with a new shelter before we start thinking about personnel," Bell said.

During the Animal Control Advisory Board's last meeting in May, the board discussed some of the new shelter's policy changes with local veterinarians and county officials, without reaching a consensus. The board also discussed the possibility of changing its method of euthanizing animals from carbon monoxide chambers to sodium pentobarbital injections.

Animal Control Board Director Dr. Stan Griffith said that considering the number of animals that are accepted by the county each week, a new shelter might have to continue to use the carbon monoxide chamber, but that injections could be used more often.

Mrs. Hollowell said all euthanizations should use the injection method, which is considered more humane.

"Very large animal shelters do humane euthanasia on a one-by-one basis. We should do the same," she said.

Commissioners have indicated they are receptive to the proposed changes.

"I think any time would be a good time to go over the details. It shouldn't really be a problem to make some changes. I think most of them were going to happen anyway," Gray said.

People who are interested in contributing to a new shelter can send a check to Wayne County at P.O. Box 227, Goldsboro, N.C., 27533. On the subject line, specify that the donation, which is tax-deductible, is for the shelter fund.

Checks can also be sent to the local Humane Society chapter at P.O. Box 821, Goldsboro, N.C., 27533.