WRAL Investigates

Wake animal shelter director resigns after less than three months

Posted January 25, 2012

— The director at the Wake County Animal Center, which came under fire in November after WRAL's "Pet of the Day" was euthanized within hours of appearing on the newscast, has resigned, Deputy County Manager Joe Durham said Wednesday.

Dennis McMichael met with his staff Wednesday morning and announced his decision to step down, effective Feb. 10.

McMichael, whose first day on the job was Nov. 7, said he was leaving after less than three months to move back to Pennsylvania, where he and his wife both have family. He was happy with his position at the animal center, he said, but the transition to North Carolina was difficult for his wife and two young children.

He has taken a job at a private shelter in Philadelphia, but added that Wake County should be proud of its shelter and how it's run.

Two days after McMichael started, in what Durham later called an "indefensible mistake," the shelter killed an 8-month-old dog named Sassy after the animal began exhibiting symptoms of an upper respiratory infection. Sassy had appeared on the WRAL News at Noon that same day as being available for adoption.

Calls and emails poured in from concerned viewers after news broke of Sassy's death.

Durham said the shelter immediately made changes to its euthanasia policy following the public outcry about Sassy. Giving sick dogs antibiotics, placing them in quarantine and allowing rescue groups to adopt them were among those changes.

33 Comments

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  • carlostheass Jan 27, 6:06 p.m.

    Anyone who has ever worked for the county government here can understand his short tenure. It would be interesting to know whether there have been any talks about contracting out the entire sheltering operation to the SPCA of Wake County. I am not saying it is a good idea. I am saying that it would be worth exploring. They may have done exactly that and I'm just not aware.

  • bigboohoo Jan 27, 4:01 p.m.

    I hate that he is leaving and I think it is a total copout! But I will say this. I am not from here and I have lived in many different places( Texas, DC, San Fran, )and Raleigh is the hardest place to make friends. So I understand that his wife and his children may not like it here and want to go home. I have also talked to some people and they agree that it is difficult to make friends here so this decision may have nothing to do with the shelter and may have everything to do with his family's quality of life as stated in the article. I hope the next director does a great job and is a champion for the animals of Wake County.

  • chattycat Jan 26, 2:51 p.m.

    @barbstillkickin: Have 9 rescues of my own that I adopted and foster 5-15 at a time. I am doing all I can to help. Also volunteer for a rescue org and do counseling. What do you do that makes you able to make such a bold statement?

  • barbstillkickin Jan 26, 2:16 p.m.

    This problem is being resolved. I do not think any animal should be put down but they are fixing the problem. We can not bring back the dead but we can learn form our mistake. If you are so concerned do what I do and adopt a poor animal. Do not complain if you are bot willing to help fix the problems.

  • chattycat Jan 26, 1:42 p.m.

    Note to the snarky posters - the man who is resigning is NOT the director who was there when this dog was euthanized, or when the shelter was in chaos. He was a recent hire who came in facing a giant mess. It's a good practice to identify your target before shooting at someone innocent. John Sawtooth

    Hey Sawtooth: You are the one that needs to get your facts straight. Read the article. Go back and read the articles when "Sassy" was euthanized. And be careful throwing stones if you live in a glass house!

  • yellowhorses Jan 26, 1:01 p.m.

    A professional in this line of work would not just give up if there was any hope of making the needed changes. Maybe it was just very plain that nothing was going to be allowed to change and he was going to be the scapegoat.

  • driverkid3 Jan 26, 12:55 p.m.

    timbo10.0, YOU are the one that needs to be "realistic". You just don't seem to understand that animals play a big part in our lives. Do you know what a therapy dog or cat is? How about a guide dog? I guess not.

  • lizard78 Jan 26, 12:27 p.m.

    He was there. Read the article.
    Two days after McMichael started, in what Durham later called an "indefensible mistake," the shelter killed an 8-month-old dog named Sassy after the animal began exhibiting symptoms of an upper respiratory infection.

  • WCPSS_Hater Jan 26, 12:23 p.m.

    Commenting on this situation only fans the flames that drove Dennis McMichael away. No sane, qualified candidate will run into the "burning building" of public opinion that is the Wake County Animal Center.

  • John Sawtooth Jan 26, 11:41 a.m.

    Note to the snarky posters - the man who is resigning is NOT the director who was there when this dog was euthanized, or when the shelter was in chaos. He was a recent hire who came in facing a giant mess.

    It's a good practice to identify your target before shooting at someone innocent.

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