Rats Overrun Animal Shelter, Force Closure

Posted June 28, 2007

— Filthy conditions forced the Hoke-Raeford Animal Shelter to close this week, but the director said she expects the shelter to reopen next week.

Shelter Director Michelle Queja said she returned from a two-week vacation on Wednesday and was overwhelmed by the stench of rodent droppings inside.

"When I smelled that, my eyes were tearing, and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, this is the day,'" Queja said. "I just couldn't let anybody else come in. I said, 'This is it. The door is closed.'"

Hoke County installed insulation in the shelter a few years ago, but Queja said the insulation, which was supposed to be temporary, had become a permanent home for rats.

"We did have mice, like, falling down on us through the insulation -- dead and alive," she said. “I would go home with rat feces in my hair."

The rats also attacked the dogs and cats held at the shelter, she said. The facility houses about 70 animals on an average day.

“Dogs that are in pens all by themselves, they have wounds on their (leg) and face, and we know that was from the rats,” she said.

Queja said she has lobbied county officials to build a new shelter for most of her seven-plus years in charge of the facility. Hoke County Manager Mike Wood said the county has the money for a new shelter but hasn't been able to acquire land for it.

Because of the delays caused by the land issue, the county has decided to start building a new shelter next to the current one.

"Our public works people believe we can go on site now, and we've spoken to the director, and it is our recommendation to the board to go on site and move immediately to build a new shelter," Wood said. "It is a priority to build a new shelter."

The new $250,000 shelter could be open in six months, he said.

Shelter staff will spend the next several days cleaning the building and exterminating the rats, Queja said. She said she hopes to have the shelter safe enough for the animals by Monday.

The shelter's animals are staying outside during the day, but regulations require them to be inside at night.


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  • ladyblue Jun 30, 2007

    Ihave12- Thanks I missed the beginning of this. From what I can read the shelter they have has no city support. If a town can't provide an animal SHELTER, then they shouldn't have one at all instead of such nonsense as this. The key sord here is Shelter, not torture chamber. It got so hot in Henderson, people were sneaking up at night and breaking the dogs out. Once they got WTVD to come and televise the situation, it started getting around and even the national stations picked up on it. It did help to get attention so maybe this will help.

  • IHave1-2 Jun 30, 2007

    @ladyblue - Thanks for your help with volunteering and efforts as an animal advocate. In answer to your question, AnimalAdvocate posted earlier the shelter is located beside the landfill. Now that I think about it, I've found county shelters are often beside landfills and other 'waste' areas. So sad... I'm still wondering where the animals are, since the shelter is 'forced' closed. I wonder if they were destroyed rather than sent to other locations...

  • ladyblue Jun 30, 2007

    animaladvocate- I had to read your other posts to be fair and quit thinking about how upset this made me. I am going to be seeing what I can find out. I gather Raeford is a small town. I don't know but I will be finding it. Yall really need help. Can you tell me what do you think is causing the rat infestation? Are you close to a county dump?

  • ladyblue Jun 30, 2007

    Animaladvocate--Maybe you volunteer, which I have done for years thank you. But if you were the activist you state you would have surely notified people who could help you as was done in Vance. It took us sitting in front of court houses or what ever, worrying county commissioners, fighting the laws of killing the animals without even trying adoptions. This place was throwing cats, kittens, and small puppies in with pit bulls and taking their time with the gassing having the dogs tearing the cats up. We put out webs, whatever it took. I didn't read all your posts but I hope you have gotten enough attention to get some help from the county. Don't jump my case about if volunteers work or not I know how that goes. Try getting courts to assign community service people to serve their time there. That helps a lot. I offered to come and help you fight off the rats. What more can I do? I can't vote for people of your town or I'd get a campaign to boot them out of office.

  • IHave1-2 Jun 29, 2007

    where are the animals now? how many need fostering?

  • SANDHILL Jun 29, 2007

    There was a story previously about the Haven shelter which is privately run and better than this one I might say but the state attorney general office is harrasing them while allowing the county to run a "dump" that is unfit for any animal but a rat. I guess it's ok it the county does it.

  • beachboater Jun 29, 2007

    Where are all the CATS in this animal shelter? Or do they just accept dogs? Years ago, a friend and I took in cats that had been dumped on the road. When we saw a mouse / rat, we cut back food for a single day, and NO more rats / mice.

  • IHave1-2 Jun 29, 2007

    Have folks follow the chain-of-command with this to keep all your basis covered. If your chain fails, seek legal from someone willing to volunteer or work a reduced rate for the cause. Also, get in writing the reason for the termination. As more folks become aware of what is happening in Hoke Co., the more they will tell others... hopefully the 'right' ones will jump in.

  • clover1019 Jun 29, 2007

    check this out..... we need this in our all the states! this would solve the problem from the beginning. No more unnecessary deaths. All animals deserve a loveing home.. not to be thrown into a shelter awaiting there for their forever home. What would have happened if this was an orphanage for children???

  • animaladvocate Jun 29, 2007

    Does this fall under some kind of whistle- blower act? I cetainly hope so. All that was ever wanted was a better environment for the animals and staff. That should'nt be too much to ask for. Even Mike woods himself came to the shelter on occasion, and he hustled to get out of there, because the rodent smell was so powerful. While he sits in his air-conditioned office and finds better causes to spend money on, the staff at Hoke Raeford Humane Society worked dilligently to take care of the animals and themselves the best they could.I am OUTRAGED!! Will someone PLEASE lobby for them? To ALL Hoke County residents.....this is the man in charge! Do we really want this spiteful type of person in office deciding how our tax dollars are spent? I think not. If you agree, let him, or whoever else know. This is a gross abuse of power! No one ever wanted to quit.....all they wanted was what should be entitled to all employees working in America. This is NOT right!