WRAL Investigates

New Wake animal shelter director might ease tensions with SPCA

Posted October 19, 2011

— Wake County on Wednesday hired a new director for its animal center, which could help thaw its relationship with the SPCA of Wake County, which has grown frosty in recent months over the center's euthanasia policy.

Dennis McMichael, the director of operations at the SPCA in Chester County, Pa., will take over as director of the Wake County Animal Center on Nov. 7.

The center had set goals of moving toward a policy of increased adoptions, officials said, but a flood of incoming animals and the spread of sickness pushed up the euthanasia rate in recent months.

Andre Pierce, Wake County’s environmental health and safety director, said managers had to make a tough call after a fast-spreading case of endemic pneumonia and distemper went through the shelter in May. Instead of continuing care for the contagious dogs, they euthanized them.

They then took a harder line, he said, and any dog showing signs of an upper respiratory infection was put down. The shelter could be held liable if it adopts out animals that are sick or potentially ill, Pierce said.

The rate at which dogs were killed at the county shelter rose from 18 percent in January to 42 percent in August. In September, 281 dogs, or 40 percent of those that came in, were killed.

"The community expects us to do the best we can by animals, and we're letting the community down," said Hope Hancock, executive director of the SPCA.

Hancock attributed the increased use of euthanasia to "a void of leadership" at the animal center, which has been without a director since May. She and other officials with the nonprofit also the county shelter also lacks communication and common sense.

McMichael said he has watched WRAL Investigates stories about the center, which included shelter volunteers concerned about the increasing kill rate.

"I understand the concern over the hard-line policy," he said, adding that he plans to review it.

He comes from a shelter with a more flexible euthanasia protocol. He believes reducing Wake County's high intake – it's more than 16,000 animals a year – presents the biggest challenge.

McMichael also said he wants to "enhance the relationships with area rescue groups." Local SPCA officials quickly applauded his hiring.

After months of debate, county officials said they hope to refocus attention on animals instead of protocols.

"As we move through this process and look at amending or examining our protocols, we look for the SPCA to remain significant partner for us," Assistant County Manager Joe Durham said.

Durham said the county also plans to bring in outside experts to review policies at the animal center.


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  • PAINFREE Oct 20, 4:11 p.m.

    It is a sad fact of life that animals not spayed and neutered in order to keep from uncontrolled breeding leads to the problems encountered at the Wake County Shelter. Mr. Pierce's job includes many duties, besides overseeing the shelter and its problems. He has tried to bring order out of chaos, with very little help, and not nearly enough money to do a good job. I hope the new hire will be a good fit, and that things will be looking up in this department. I love dogs and cats, but the first order of business after acquiring one of them is to spay or neuter, vaccinate and treat for any existing problems. This is not always affordable, but the effort should be made. If the citizens want pets, they should be responsible for their pets at all times.

  • working for deadbeats Oct 20, 3:50 p.m.

    These animals are being killed because of a huge lack of human responsibility for them. Don't buy from backyard breeders or pet stores.

  • Oprahisthedevil Oct 20, 2:30 p.m.

    So new leadership will magically make less animals come into the shelter and more adoptions occur? Wow...I didn't know it was that simple.

    The last shelter director left for an easier job which didn't involve fanatical animal lovers that ask for a standard of care that the county can not provide...short of raising everyones taxes. Keep up the good work and let God sort them out...wait...I forgot that animals don't go to heaven...forget I said that.

  • nadianboone Oct 20, 1:22 p.m.

    Ms Hancock has addressed the true problems the Wake County Animal Shelters have had for a very long time “a void in leadership”. I could not agree more and believe me, I am not alone. I have seen the most incompetent, unqualified people working in these shelters. Their solution to overpopulation of pets in Wake County has been, killing them, or, as they call it euthanize them!! Innocent dogs and cats have to die because there is no leadership or creativity. It seems to me, they could take some leadership lessons from Ms Hancock and Wake County SPCA. It is even worse in other counties in North Carolina, there is no regards for these wonderful creations of God.

  • yellowhorses Oct 20, 1:12 p.m.

    Once he gets Wake under control, send him up to Person County. Their shelter kill rate is over 90% for dogs and close to 100% for cats. Their motto seems to be it is easier to kill then to clean the kennels.

  • claudemedlin Oct 20, 12:38 p.m.

    It is past time to replace the sorry leadership there

  • sunneyone Oct 20, 11:12 a.m.

    some of you "don't kill them " crybabies need to reread the most important part of that article

    He believes reducing Wake County's high intake – it's more than 16,000 animals a year – presents the biggest challenge.

    you can't save 16,000 animals a year anywhere....
    October 20, 2011 10:13 a.m.

    You can try. Spay/Neutering programs. Perhaps the County can work with the SPCA. Education programs. And programs to help people hold onto their pets instead of having to give them up because they can't afford food or medications for the pets. That will help reduce the numbers.
    It's worth a shot to try.

  • bmg379 Oct 20, 11:10 a.m.

    spay or neuter your pet,some dogs stand no chance and die simply because they were born and had no chance

    yes,even the cute puppies and kittens

  • woodsman12169 Oct 20, 10:15 a.m.

    that means they are still saving over 9,000 animals a year that come in. How much better can you expect from animals that are thrown away?

  • woodsman12169 Oct 20, 10:13 a.m.

    some of you "don't kill them " crybabies need to reread the most important part of that article

    He believes reducing Wake County's high intake – it's more than 16,000 animals a year – presents the biggest challenge.

    you can't save 16,000 animals a year anywhere....