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Animal shelter's challenge is balancing caution, adoption

Posted February 2, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— Tim Baucom and his children love life with their new shih tzu puppy, Hero.

Baucom says he bought Hero, though that was not his original plan.

"The first place we looked was the SPCA," Baucom said.

Baucom found a dog he wanted to adopt on the Petfinder listings of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Johnston County, but said he was told that he could not see any of the dogs until his application was approved.

So, he filled out an application, marked the dog he liked and waited.

"They never acknowledged my application at all," Baucom said. He assumes it was denied.

Briony Voorhees says she was also out of luck when her Wake County animal rescue group, A New Leash on Life, tried to adopt back a Saint Bernard that was left with the Johnston SPCA.

Shelter operator: Policy is 'strict but fair' Shelter operator: Policy is 'strict but fair'

"She never did any reference checks. She never did a vet check on us and she wouldn't let us take the dog out of the shelter," Voorhees said.

The nonprofit group in Clayton operates by appointment only, and according to its Web site, has a "strict but fair" adoption policy in which the animals' "health and welfare come first."

Operator Melinda Barefoot said she contacts those whose applications are accepted. She claims Voorhees did not disclose on her application that she represented a rescue group. Dishonesty is one reason Barefoot cited for disapproving some applications.

According to state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services records, Barefoot reported taking 179 cats and 505 dogs into the shelter in 2007. Of those, she adopted out 70 cats and 255 dogs. She euthanized 75 cats and 115 dogs.

She reported total operating expenses at $41,298.87 and a cost per animal handled of $60.14.

Also, according to the state records, she houses animals for the town of Clayton. The town contracts with the agency for about $16,000 a year to take in some animals.

Barefoot, who has independently operated the shelter for 26 years, says she has received 2,000 e-mails since December regarding animals and has limited help to process applications and requests.

That's part of the reason, she says, that she limits visitations to appointments and only allows visits once applications are approved.

"This is a person with passion to keep dogs alive, and she tries her hardest to keep dogs alive," said Neve Agbayani, a fundraiser for the shelter.

After a break-in and fears that other animal groups were trying to take over her facility, Barefoot says appointments are the only way to control who comes into the shelter.

"She really tries to match the owner with the right fit," said Donna Eastmon, a member of the Johnston SPCA Board of Directors. "She doesn't want them brought back."

Barefoot's colleagues say they plan to help answer more requests and might add public hours for visits.

There are no standard operating procedures or polices for SPCAs because the agency has no national oversight board. Anyone can use the name.

The state oversees animal welfare at the facility and as of December, found it to be in acceptable condition and providing proper care for the animals.

The agency, however, has had some minor issues in the past dealing with odor and vet records. All of those issues, however, have been corrected.


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  • amys3yungins Feb 6, 2009

    I tried to adopt an animal from this shelter and it was a waste of my time. I did get "approved" but that did not help me! I did manage to set up an appointment time to come adopt a dog but she called and canceled the appointment. I had been waiting and looking forward to our appointment for several days. My kids were disappointed that she canceled. After that she would never return my calls or emails. I became frustrated and I adopted from Wake County SPCA. I hope she gets investigated because I thought it was very strange and that something "fishy" is going on over there!

  • JustSayinToo Feb 6, 2009

    I have not had any dealings with JC SPCA, but Johnston County Animal Shelter in Smithfield is more than willing to allow pet lovers to adopt. They even allow visitation with all adoptable animals during certain business hours. I adopted a cat from them a few days ago and had a wonderful experience! I walked in and was walking out with my kitty in 30mins, I didn't have any non-sense dealings or questions. They have a high turn over rate with their animals.. cats and dogs.. maybe Melinda needs to have a meeting with them and try to incorporate the way they do business into her's!!

  • Belle1925 Feb 3, 2009

    We also tried to adopt from the SPCA in Johnston County. Our application was never acknowledged. Not to mention, if you look at their site under petfinder.com, nearly every animal listed is either not suggested in a home with other cats, dogs, or kids. Should someone not step in and investigate this woman and her establishment? Something is not right here!

  • HowManyOunces Feb 3, 2009

    My husband and I wanted to adopt from the SPCA and were told we couldn't because we didn't have a fenced in yard. We own our home and have 2 acres. We walk our dogs and they are kept inside with the family. We were very frustrated after a long wait at the shelter to be given this denial reason. We ended up going to Saving Grace in Wake Forest to adopt our dog.

  • hippygirl Feb 3, 2009

    I also attempted to apply for the chance to adopt. I requested an application several times before I was finally sent an Email that stated the application was attached. It was not. after replying several times that there was no attachment and not getting a response I gave up.

    It's sad to see that there are so many people willing to adopt these animals, but instead they're being put down due to one person's opinion on what makes a good home. She should be ashamed that there are at least 8 of those animals so far that missed on a good home.

  • jsanders Feb 3, 2009

    What balance? This is not the SPCA of old. The "new" SPCA's approach is that animals are better served by being put to death by compassionate SPCA employees than by being adopted by a loving family who sets off one of the SPCA's many, many "danger" signals, like having a fenced-in yard for a dog or having owned a declawed cat once or Gaia knows what else.

    Parents, if you want a pet for your children, go to one of the other pet shelters who haven't forgotten that their reason for existence is to save the life of animals and find them owners. The SPCA apparently believes that people are willing to pay an animal rescue outfit $150 to $200 bucks to buy an animal they are going to abuse, because going on craigslist or some other free service just isn't as fun. I know it doesn't make sense, but that is their approach.

  • soccermomof2guys Feb 3, 2009

    I was denied adoption of a kitten. I went to a private citizen and somehow managed to give my cat a good home!!

  • grayboomerang Feb 3, 2009

    That's a shame. I can tell you that not all rescue groups are bad...some really do want to adopt out pets to loving homes. I foster for one who, although has rules/guidelines, they are not ridiculous on their requirements.

    It's a shame that animals are losing their life in the shelter because people can't come see them. Want to cut out the "sketchy" adopters....charge a fee like WC does. A 115.00 adoption fee will keep out the dog fighters and the "dog doesn't leave without being spayed/neutered"...keeps the puppy millers away.

    The group New Leash On Life is a great group and I cannot believe she wouldn't allow them to take in the St. Benard. It would be one dog out/into a good situation and room for another one.

    And just an FYI..there are two shelters down east that are easy to work with and pleasant on the phone...Onslow County and Pender County. Pender Co. is run on donations only, if you ever want to help a nice group, I recommend Pender Co.

  • davidgnews Feb 3, 2009

    We'll never go back to SPCA in Wake. We have one cat from there that's 10 years old and doing well. We went back 4 years ago when we lost our other cat, and some early-20s kid told us 'we were unfit to be owners.' They didn't like the idea that we had outside cats, and even if I pledged to keep the new one indoors, they said 'it wouldn't be fair.' They were disgusting, and also looked up our home on a Wake County Real Estate site to see where we lived. I'm sure they wouldn't have gone that far if we told them we'd been in a mobile home.

    We went to the Wake County shelter and got our cat. We'll go back there in the future. I wouldn't give a cent to SPCA now, as they've just gotten 'too big for their britches.'

    While our new one is an indoor cat, the other still goes outside. We have a lot of deck area and 3 acres of woods, so it's a big wonderland for the outdoor cat -he has plenty of shelter and hiding space when he is out. He still likes being indoors most of the time.

  • 2headstrong Feb 3, 2009

    For all the encouragement to adopt shelter animals, the adoption requirements can get very out of hand. They would rather euthanize a dog than have someone without a fenced yard adopt it? Really?

    So this local 'group' is really one person, from the sound of it. You'd think before they handed out whatever licensing she needed that they'd be sure it was adequately staffed.
    The numbers of adoptions vs euthanizations in this case is a bit disturbing to me.