A citizen has contacted county leadership about a post or message being shared on social media with accusations that the County Animal Shelter is withholding public records and being uncooperative with rescue groups. This same allegation was made in public comment at the Board of Commissioners’ meeting Monday night before any issue had been elevated to the Assistant County Manager or County Manager for review. The County has a commitment to transparency with our citizens. That transparency has even included proactively releasing information in 2016 when an unannounced state inspection found state regulatory violations. One of those violations included that the county was not able to show complete records. Staff immediately worked collaboratively with the state to make improvements to make sure that our shelter was compliant and also sought to improve above state standards. The allegations being made now revolve around files that staff had been keeping at the front desk. When the Animal Services Director realized that our files subject to state inspection were being kept at the desk with the ability for multiple people to access them directly, he took action to secure those files. These files must remain complete and are subject to state inspection so limiting direct access to the file is important in order to prevent someone from inadvertently compromising the file and leaving pieces missing. Fortunately, each kennel enclosure has a kennel card posted and remains available for our rescues and adopting public to see at any time and the director also then implemented a system to have a file of kennel cards available for our rescue groups and volunteers to use at the desk with all the information they need to assist in adopting out animals from the shelter. Our shelter will additionally comply with any public records request submitted to the shelter by providing copies of requested information as required by state law and within state regulation. In this situation, it is possible there was a delay between finding the issue, taking action to secure and getting the file for use in place, but that does not translate into lack of transparency and cooperation as a general accusation.
Animal Services is a hard job for our employees and the reality of the job is both rewarding by helping our community’s animals and challenging because of the realities of running a public shelter and the responsibilities that come with that including state regulation. Our employees take great pride in working with our rescue groups to improve our live release rate and that collaborative effort has resulted in one of the highest rates in the state at 86% for 2017 and we are currently averaging 92%for 2018. As in any collaborative effort, there will be times of disagreement and challenges working together. Our organization is committed to doing what we can to navigate those times and be a partner in realizing the best outcomes possible for our community. Social media is a double edged sword. On one hand it has allowed for our shelter animals to be showcased to people who may not otherwise know they are there for adoption and has led to happy and loving homes for those animals. It has allowed public engagement to increase in ways that did not exist before and those are all positives to allowing us to serve better. On the other, it allows for misinformation or sweeping allegations to be spread without proper investigation, but the live release rate reflects the dedication of our staff and those of countless volunteers at the shelter and in our partnering rescues to improve the lives of animals and community.
Jaime Laughter, AICP, ICMA-CM
101 S Broad Street
Brevard, NC 28712