08/30/09 — Animal control director search back on

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Animal control director search back on

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 30, 2009 12:26 AM

It will be at least October before the county hires anyone to take over the animal control director's office left vacant in June when Justin Scally left to take a job with the Humane Society of the United States.

The county had appeared ready to act as early as next month, but the top candidates for the office all took other jobs.

That has caused the county to readvertise the position, and those who applied earlier have been sent letters encouraging them to do so again. The county has advertised on the local, state and national levels.

"We are going to reexamine all of those who applied before plus any new candidates," County Manager Lee Smith said.

Vicki Falconer will continue as acting operations director for the animal control department.

"We talked to several candidates by phone, some local, some within the state and some outside the state," Smith said. "All of the candidates at this point in time to be interviewed, except one, were actually looking for jobs and took other positions so we have opened that position back up, and we are taking applications again."

The search is being coordinated by a committee consisting of Office of Emergency Services Director Joe Gurley, Human Services Director Sue Guy, local veterinarian Dr. Osborne Wilder, Humane Society member Jean Hollowell, a representative of the Sheriff's Office and agricultural extension agent Eileen Coite. Smith said he thinks the "right people" are in place on the committee.

Smith said he hears a lot about in state vs. out of state vs. local vs. someone connected to animal groups. All of that, he said, would be taken in consideration.

"The bottom line is we need an animal control director who can carry out the law, that I think obviously has compassion for animals, but has compassion for owners as well," Smith said. "Animal ownership and dealing with animals is very emotional. We need to find the right person."

The county received more than 20 applications during the first round. The total was narrowed down to five to seven and then four to five, he said.

"The expectations for animal control in Wayne County are very high," Smith said. "I say that from a couple of angles. First of all, it is very high in regard to the new (animal) shelter how it is going to be managed and how the policy is going to be conducted, and by the state of North Carolina, because we have new standards by which we have to operate. There is also high standards as to ownership of animals out in the community."

Smith was speaking of the move last summer from a cramped and antiquated building on Brick Street to a modern $2.2 million, 11,000-square-foot facility occupying almost four acres on Clingman Street.

The animal control staff and volunteers have stepped to up the challenge since Scally left, Smith said.

"We have come a long way," Smith said. "It is about educating people, and I think that will be the next step. I know the Humane Society and all of those folks, the thing they really want to see is education. Obviously, spaying and neutering, that is the law. You can have all of the law you want, but it will not take effect until you educate people about why they need to spay and neuter and when people get that in their heads, you will change things.

"There has to be a balance. Wayne County is changing (from rural to more urban), but until you get that education process it is going to be a continuous process."