Raeford, N.C. — State regulators have given the operator of North Carolina's largest no-kill animal shelter less than two months to bring the facility up to code or be closed.
Linda Spear founded The Haven 16 years ago, but the shelter has failed every state inspection for the past five years, in part because it doesn't have enough kennels to house the hundreds of dogs and cats inside.
"We are continuing to have animals left anonymously at our gate. We don't turn those animals away," Spear said.
The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has given her until Friday to get rid of about 150 more dogs. If she doesn't meet that deadline, she has until Sept. 1 to bring the shelter into compliance with state codes.
“She has told us repeatedly that she was going to make improvements,” said Brian Long, spokesman for the agriculture department. “At some point, you have to say, 'Show us,' and she has not. Getting into compliance is not (the shelter's) top priority. Its only priority is to gather animals.”
Spear said she has added gravel and concrete throughout the shelter to meet state demands, but she said she still needs to add a septic system in a new building and install interior paneling in other buildings. She estimated the projects will cost about $40,000.
The Haven adopted out about 1,000 animals during the first six months of the year, but Spear said it takes time to ensure pets wind up with caring families.
"That’s not something that’s done overnight,” she said.
The shelter still has at least 1,000 pets up for adoption.
"The state says, 'Get rid of the animals. We don’t care how you do it, but they have to be gone,'” she said. “I think it’s horrendous. It’s unacceptable. The community wants to have a no-kill option for these animals."
If Spear fails to raise the money and complete the renovations by the beginning of September, The Haven could lose its nonprofit status, which would likely dry up the stream of donations used to operate the shelter and could force it to close.
Another option would be for her to lease the shelter to the state for $1 a year and step aside from operating it.
Spear vowed that The Haven would survive, and people adopting or fostering pets at the shelter said they hope to see it remain open.
"They definitely do need some improvements, but still, the living conditions are OK for the animals. They're not being hurt or harmed," Christi Huddleston said.