The director of the county Health Department, while being interviewed for a story published in Sunday’s The Robesonian, had two handfuls of ominous news regarding the Robeson County Animal Shelter.
Adoptions are down, according to Bill Smith, the problem being that rescue groups that had been pulling animals from Robeson County have abandoned the local shelter while following two former employees to their new jobs at pounds in Sampson and Scotland counties. The good news is that the rescues continue at those facilities, with many of the animals heading northward where strays roaming the roads and digging through Dumpsters is not epidemic — and there is actually a demand for adoptable pets.
The other bit of bad news, according to Smith, is that there is “little interest” in the vacant position of manager of the shelter, which is being held on an interim basis by Brian Lashley. Smith says that the environment has been poisoned by the “constant scrutiny” of the shelter by the media — and we assume that Sunday’s Page 1A story on adoptions and today’s Our View in The Robesonian only add to that mountain.
“It’s not a relaxing environment,” Smith said.
The scrutiny was brought on by problems at the shelter that were first unveiled more than a decade ago when a hidden camera showed animals being abused at the former pound, which was then located in a veterinarian’s office. That mobilized animal rights activists and real and significant improvements resulted — the construction of a new facility at the county landfill, more humane treatment of the animals while they are being housed, and determined efforts to find homes for the cats and dogs that have cut euthanasia rates dramatically.
Unfortunately, as Smith pointed out, the departure of the shelter’s former manager and the adoption coordinator — as well as a prolonged distemper outbreak — have slowed adoption rates, and the number of cats and dogs being euthanized in recent months has returned to levels of years ago.
The shelter’s adoption coordinator is confident the setback is temporary, new relationships with rescue groups are being nourished, and that strays taken to the pound will have more than a snowball’s chance of getting off death row.
The new manager, whether that is Lashley or someone else, has to understand that the media scrutiny will always be linked to the number of animals being put down — and while animal rights groups are now silent, we know they are paying attention.
Should euthanasia rates continue as they are now, history tells us what happens next.