Local News

Johnston County SPCA owner defends against neglect allegations

Posted March 5, 2012

— The owner of the Johnston County SPCA in Clayton defended her practices Monday in the face of a Facebook campaign alleging neglect.

Susan Dunaway, a former employee of the shelter, alleges that owner Malinda Barefoot neglects animals and does not put enough of them up for adoption. The facility is only open by appointment.

In a tour Monday, WRAL News found animals being cleaned and fed. Barefoot initially tried to limit WRAL's access to areas recently cleaned, but eventually agreed to open two rooms that had been off limits.

Inside, one dog was trying to squeeze his way under a door, and dozens of other small dogs were in cages without water.

"We don't give them water until after they are cleaned," Barefoot said.

"It's not the prettiest adoption place, but they've got dogs that need love," said Jennifer Mitchell, who adopted a Shih-tzu from the shelter on Monday. 

Dunaway said she quit her job because she saw animals dying from neglect.

"I had to quit because I was a mess. I couldn't stop it. I couldn't do anything," former worker Susan Dunaway said.

Johnston County SPCA accused of neglect Johnston County SPCA accused of neglect

Recent pictures posted to Facebook show a cat without water and garbage scattered across the property.

"I think both sides of the story need to be told. This is a vendetta. The animals are fed and watered every day, and I'm back every night," Barefoot said.

Barefoot, who is retiring in June, said she has dedicated 29 years to the animals and she would never neglect them.

"These people can say or do whatever they want to. I'm here for the animals. I've been here for the animals. Where have they been?" Barefoot said.

The town of Clayton pays the SPCA to take in stray animals. That recently stopped after Barefoot announced she was retiring and planned to close this branch of the SPCA. 

Barefoot said she plans to work with the Wake County SPCA to place the animals before her retirement. 

Members of the Facebook group plan to bring their concerns to the Clayton town council during its meeting on Monday evening.

Barefoot was given Clayton's Citizen of the Year award in January. It is the highest honor bestowed on a citizen in the town.


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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Mar 7, 2012

    @InterestedNurse, Shelters are not perfect, but are all we have until we can educate people about the incredible responsibility of owning a pet.

    Isn’t it possible that your dog was skinny because he actually had cancer and was recovering? Isn’t it possible that @tbsakfarm knows the one person running the phones/dogs/kennels/food, which would drastically affect adoption times? Wouldn’t more people (volunteers) or more $ (to hire workers & buy supplies) help fix this? Isn’t this model better than just sending them to another, already over-crowded shelter, which would euthanize every one?

    While your dog may be better off now, know that many people work very hard to help save the 250,000+ animals that are euthanized every year, because of irresponsible owners.

    If there a severe conditions in a shelter, yes, we should fix that. Definitely. But, irresponsible owners are where we should focus our attention and *prevent* these animals from ending up here in the first place.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Mar 7, 2012

    barbstillkickin said, “I pray that God will find a way to make all these animals find the love they deserve.”

    The god that most people around here talk to doesn’t allow animals in his heaven...apparently they don’t have this thing called “souls”. So, why would he care?

    And, doesn’t he already know about the conditions (and even thoughts) of every single one of these animals without you telling him?

    Instead, how about volunteering time and money here-and-now to help these animals?

  • InterestedNurse Mar 6, 2012

    You can back her up all you want, but the facts are the facts. She doesn't get the animals adopted out, or makes it extremely difficult for those seeking adoptions to do so. She nearly starved the dog I got back from her (by legal force) to death. She won't let anyone in the facility. She only uses one employee because she won't allow people to volunteer for fear of exposing the cruelty, she uses the "SPCA" name illegitimately. There have been numerous comments from people who have had actual negative experiences with her, including myself, and I'm not out to get anyone. I admire anyone who wants to do something good for animals, but she needs to recognize when she is in need of help instead of insisting on manning that ship alone. It's not that she doesn't have the help, she simply doesn't want it. At this point, anyone could take better care of an animal than she could. Dogs would be better off on the streets than in her "shelter", at least they might feed themselv

  • barbstillkickin Mar 6, 2012

    This lady looks crazy and acts crazy. These poor animals looked like they were so lonely and afraid. It breaks my heart to see animals abused in a place that is suppose to help them find good homes. I would take this over in a heart beat and believe me these animals would have everything I could afford to give them. The most important thing these animals need is some TLC. A few hugs and loving a day goes a long way. I wish she would be arrested for mistreating these dogs. If I had the room I would take every single one of them. Poor poor little babies being so mistreated after all they have already been through. It just breaks my heart and if you care about animals it should break your heart to. I pray that God will find a way to make all these animals find the love they deserve.

  • mvenable Mar 6, 2012

    This woman sounds crazy. She should'nt be allowed to retire, she should be shut down. I bet she gets money from the county for each animal she is holding/starving/neglecting and that's why she doesn't let them go or take care of them. She's a leech, kinda like the people that "care" for the mentally disabled in order to steal their government checks.

  • pirategirl12 Mar 6, 2012

    All I know is that I offered help and was turned down! I also wanted to adopt but was never able to go visit the pup or anything. :(

  • tbsakfarm Mar 6, 2012

    People need to get their facts straight before making accusations. The SPCA in Clayton is funded solely by private donations & money from Town of Clayton (set amount per animal). Hours are by appt. only because the operator can't take care of the animals & answer phones & have visitors at the same time with only 1 part-time employee. The facility is inspected yearly. Visitors are not allowed inside due to liability and the condition of some of the animals being brought in (starvation/illness/aggressiveness). The operator is there almost 24/7. She is cripplied up with arthritis trying to do her best. Stop your whining, get off your computer and volunteer. Form a committee with the Town of Clayton & see what can be done to help all homeless animals.

  • shannonatlanticvend Mar 6, 2012

    Once an animal is accepted into the Wake COunty SPCA they are there until they are adopted. No animals die at the Wake County SPCA. If you truly want to save a life adopt from the Wake County Animal Shelter.

  • whyyoulikethat Mar 6, 2012

    Anyone know if this lady is hoarding dogs/cats/animals in her home as well??? This lady is definitely up to something. I have been down there before, trying to look at dogs available for adoption (like you would do at any "SPCA") and she cracked the door and would not let me in. OBVIOUSLY, something is fishy. Citizen of the year????? please!!

  • Rocky2.0 Mar 6, 2012

    She is probably one of those well meaning middle aged women with empty nest syndrome that got in over her head.