WRAL Investigates

NC shelter kills 99 percent of animals, records show

Posted November 15, 2012

For dogs and cats that end up at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter, the journey is like being sent to death row. The shelter, which has the highest kill rate in the state, euthanized nearly 1,200 animals - 100 percent of cats and 98 percent of dogs - last year, records show.

— For dogs and cats that end up at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter, the journey is like being sent to death row. The shelter, which has the highest kill rate in the state, euthanized nearly 1,200 animals – 100 percent of cats and 98 percent of dogs – brought there last year, according to state records.

“It's like going to your mother's funeral every time you do it. You never get over it,” said animal control officer Leon Everett, who euthanizes the animals by lethal injection.

North Carolina does not regulate euthanasia rates at county animal shelters. The state only began inspecting county shelters in 2006. Montgomery County’s animal shelter has failed 11 of its 14 inspections, according to public records the WRAL Investigates team examined.

Inspectors called the shelter’s conditions “deplorable” and noted that it did not have any walls to protect the animals from the weather, the dogs and cats weren’t being fed and cages weren't cleaned for an entire weekend.

The shelter abides by the 72-hour state minimum to hold animals before they are euthanized, but there's no formal adoption process, no regular shelter hours and no website to advertise available animals.

Montgomery County manager Matt Woodard said he isn’t surprised by his county’s high kill rate, which he attributes to funding problems and a different mentality about animals among people in his county. Less than 1 percent of the county's $29 million budget goes to the shelter. It receives about $95,000 a year, which pays for two full-time workers, trucks, fuel, power and equipment.

On the day the WRAL Investigates team visited, animal control officers found a Labrador mix dumped at the shelter with its legs wrapped in duct tape.

“There are cruel people in the world,” Woodard said.

Woodard has helped bring the shelter’s concrete and cages closer to state standards over the past year, but he would like to do more.

“Yes, we all would like to build a new facility to make it perfectly climate controlled, but we’re not able to do that,” he said.

Pushed by state inspectors, Montgomery County commissioners voted to spend $30,000 to put in a new septic system, a portable building for lethal injections, retractable windows and walls in the shelter. Before those changes, “the air in the winter would come through here and the animals would shiver,” Woodward said.

NC shelter kills 99 percent of animals, records show NC shelter kills 99 percent of animals

Lee Hunter, director of animal welfare with the N.C. Department of Agriculture, acknowledged that Montgomery County's shelter was "one of the worst" in the state. However, he chose not to shut it down.

"When shelters have gone so long without oversight, you can't turn around as soon as they come under and just say, 'We're shutting you down.' The animals have to go somewhere," Hunter said, noting that the shelter needs more financial help and public involvement.

While Montgomery County faces criticism for its high kill rate, other county shelters with much lower euthanization rates have come under intense scrutiny from animal rights groups. The Wake County animal shelter was the focus of public outrage last year when its euthanasia rate climbed above 40 percent.

“The shelter system in North Carolina is pretty much broken,” said Lisa Brockmeier, a blogger with the shelter pet advocacy group FixNC. She says Montgomery County’s money struggles are no excuse for a history of shoddy conditions and a high kill rate.

“My reaction is, they're not even trying,” she said.

Money can be a factor, but not always. Some of the poorest counties in the state have the highest kill rates. State records show Anson, Edgecombe, Surry and Washington are all above 90 percent. But other poor counties are making it work, such as Alleghany and Bladen, which have kill rates of 27 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

Nearly 225,000 dogs and cats were euthanized at public shelters in North Carolina last year.

Tom Hicks is president of the Montgomery County Humane Society, which consists of a few dog runs in a volunteer's backyard. With limited space, they work with animal control on rescues. Those adoptions are not reflected in the state numbers.

Montgomery County cleared some land next to the shelter for a Humane Society adoption center. Volunteers have raised about $21,000 so far, but hope to raise more so they can build the center.

“We'd like to get it where at least the social animals have a chance of being adopted,” Hicks said.

Until then, the chances are high that most animals won't make it out alive.

“If I were a stray dog in Montgomery County, I would think, ‘Gosh, my chances of staying alive are better out here in the woods,’” Brockmeier said.


Word of WRAL’s story has stirred up tremendous emotional reaction from the public. WRAL reached out to Montgomery County’s manager and offered to help promote an adoption clinic for the animals. Instead, Woodard asked that people who want to help should coordinate through the Montgomery County Humane Society, either by donating money or adopting animals.

To help Montgomery County build an adoption center, make check payable to:
Montgomery County Humane Society
1150 Okeewemee Road
Troy, N.C. 27371

To learn more about spay and neuter programs:
Contact Penny Page with the veterinary division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture

To learn more about organizing and volunteer efforts:
Contact Kim Alboum with the Humane Society of the United States-North Carolina Chapter


This story is closed for comments.

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  • karolynt Nov 21, 2012

    I live in rural SC, and our county shelter was in bad shape several years ago. It was not until a light was shone on the poor conditions, and our sheriff did not want to be seen in a bad light that changes were made. Then, when carcasses were found buried in a vacant lot across from the shelter, statewide publicity came about, as well as SC Law Enforcement Division investigation. Officers were shooting dogs. They were all fired, and new staff was hired. Now the shelter is doing great. It takes action by local people to really get the ball rolling, as well as national organizations chiming in. Unfortunately, in rural areas people are afraid of rocking the boat, but a few well-placed words in a national organization's ears can do a world of good. We also had a decrepit gas chamber, and when shame was brought down on the sheriff, it was discarded in favor of lethal injection.

  • farmerwannabe Nov 21, 2012

    And then you have animal controls and CPS that conspire against an innocent family so the case worker can get an open case after the family refused to agree to one. Then when the family took their legal right to sue then animal control raids this family who runs a no kill cat shelter. In the end 23 animals have died because of these 2 people..............http://www.causes.com/causes/657277-help-bring-the-lee-s-pets-home

  • Rebelyell Nov 20, 2012

    Only one post notes the real problem--loose animals and lax enforcement of existing laws prohibiting loose animals. Because the animal nuts think animals are more important than humans, and thus should roam free. As our society has become more and more liberal-hearted, they have undermined the loose animal laws and enforcement. In Wake county, it takes DAYS for an officer to respond to a call. Because the animal control has been undermined by animal nuts.

  • aaldogoo Nov 16, 2012

    What a horrible place and this county should be ashamed and all wear sunglasses to avoid detection. Pets in this county don't stand a chance and the residents look the other way. As for the county find resources ! Reach out to groups write grants for cryin out loud. and do something other than killing.

  • caniac8402 Nov 16, 2012

    funnyfarm10 - I agree to an extent. But it is not the responsible ones that cause the problem, it is the irresponsible. So what do we do with people who get pets and have no business getting pets? Do we just leave the animals to their own devices? Hope they don't become vicious because they are so hungry? Hope they are smart enough not to use the logic " I can't feed myself so I don't need to have puppies or kittens"? Truth be told, I would rather my taxpayer money go to support animals in a shelter, spay / neuter programs or other programs of the like, than people who chose to sit on their rump and nothing but live off tax dollars. BUT that is just my opinion.

  • jabrams Nov 16, 2012

    Maybe the people wanting to start the Humane Society to help the sociable animals can offer to get pix. of the animals avail. or they can help get volunteers to get pix of the animals so they can get them crossposted and help get the pix. out to rescue groups and adopters to give the animals a better chance of getting out of the shelter and reduce kill rate. Petfinder is a great resource for the animals getting adopted and pix. could help get quicker response and help for the animals...

  • Damien Thorne Nov 16, 2012

    "Karen - www.NCVAW.org---"NC taxpayers pay about 33 million at last count to take in, house and ultimately kill these animals. If even half of this went to fund free s/n we would see the numbers drop and our tax bill as well."

    "Thank you for posting that stat...I was not aware the number was THAT high. And that is the point I was trying to get across in my posts as well. Maybe it's time we hit up all our newly elected politicians to look into this."---funnyfarm10

    Perhaps pointing out that with kill rates this high, taking half of the money they already use to house animals then there will only be half as many animals that can be helped. Which means a significant increase in the number of animals put down.

    Maybe your logic is a little twisted?

  • Damien Thorne Nov 16, 2012

    "Lastly when WRAL visited this shelter there were no cats present so apparently they kill every cat whether room is available or not. How do they explain that logic???"----Karen - www.NCVAW.org

    Perhaps that the 100% kill rate for cats means they kill them all?

  • Damien Thorne Nov 16, 2012

    Please don't forget about NCSU's vet school program called Operation Catnip where they spay/neuter about 100 feral or unowned cats every month for free. And they have a low cost voucher for owned cats. http://www.operationcatnip.org/
    Karen - www.NCVAW.org

    Yes, take them to NC State, you might want to remind them not to stick a feeding tube into their lungs and drown them though.....

  • Damien Thorne Nov 16, 2012

    @Damien - NCVAW did reach out to Troxler on several ocassions. Please don't call us useless when you don't even know have the correct facts. @Dan - Not having your animal altered works great if that animal never gets loose by mistake. What about people whose kids let the dog out by mistake? Happens all the time in my neighborhood. Also people let their kids walk their dog when there is no way the child can control most of the dogs they are walking esp if the dog just bolts.
    Karen - www.NCVAW.org

    You are a useless organization. You have an inflexible view of what people should do to their animals. I have had enough of people telling me and everyone else what I should or should not do with my animals. Perhaps you should go door to door in your neighborhood where you claim to see it all the time, try to force those people to get their animals "altered". I have seen many organizations like yours talk the talk, but like PETA all you do is talk, and dump animals in dumpsters.