Raleigh, N.C. — About two years ago, animal advocates, people in the community and Wake County Animal Center officials came together to discuss how they could reduce the number of animals that end up at the shelter. During the past several months, the center been caught in a whirlwind of unflattering headlines.
Wake County Commissioner Erv Portman says “it’s embarrassing” and that he thinks the county can do better.
Most recently, a volunteer group trying to help control the feral cat population in Apex announced this week it would take Wake County to court to get it to stop trapping and euthanizing animals in the town.
In November, the animal shelter put down an 8-month-old Labrador-hound mix named Sassy, hours after it was featured as the pet of the day on WRAL-TV's noon newscast. Wake County Animal Center officials cited an upper respiratory infection as its reason for euthanizing the dog and said that putting it on the news was a mistake.
The clashes between animal advocates and the Wake County animal center have been about policy. Both sides want to reduce the number of animals put to death in Wake County. Portman, who said he has talked with many animal advocates, says the county needs to listen to the solutions they propose.
“We have passionate volunteers that have alternatives, that are willing to use their time, money and effort to help us, and we ought to get out of their way and let them help us,” he said.
Adding to the trouble, the animal center is looking for a new director after Dennis McMichael's surprising announcement that he was stepping down to move back to Pennsylvania. Portman says that should not keep county commissioners from tackling these issues.
“I don’t think we’ve been as responsive as we should be, and I’ve been talking with county staff to get us a little more response, a little quicker,” he said.
Animal advocates have proposed one solution in regard to feral cats. If citizens called and said they wanted the county to round up cats, callers should be informed of other rescue groups that could help spay or neuter, vaccinate and return the cats to their surroundings.
If the cats ended up at the shelter, they'd be euthanized, so callers could get a choice. That procedural change needs to be approved by county commissioners, and county leaders say that could come before them within the next 30 days.