HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. — The state took over a Hendersonville animal shelter on Friday as it completes the task of finding rescue groups to take the remaining pets at All Creatures Great and Small.
The state Agriculture Department said Thursday that Operation MoveOut will begin at All Creatures Great and Small on Friday, when the department takes possession of the shelter.
The department will conduct behavior and health assessments before placing the animals with rescue organizations.
Earlier this week, the department and Henderson County signed an agreement that cleared the way for the department to take possession of the animals.
State officials said the shelter must close because it is not in compliance with the state's Animal Welfare Act.
Regulators have said the no-kill shelter failed to provide veterinary care and exposed the public to dangerous dogs. Shelter officials denied they neglected or mistreated animals, saying they took cats and dogs that other shelters consider unadoptable.
The shelter held 680 animals in October. State officials said that was down to 155 dogs and 22 cats on Friday.
The Orange County Animal Shelter took in 10 cats earlier this week.
The department is seeking help from animal rescue organizations across the Southeast to accept the animals. There is no adoption fee, although the organizations must fill out a form, available on the department's Web site, for approval to take animals.
"Our goal from the beginning has been to take the animals out of the substandard conditions they were living in and give them a fair chance for a new home," said Assistant State Veterinarian Mary Ann McBride. "We hope animal rescue organizations will evaluate their situations and take as many animals as they can reasonably accommodate."
Some rescue organizations had already begun taking animals from the shelter before the state's takeover.
Jen Whaley of Goldsboro traveled five hours to take home six dogs and four cats for her rescue group, Sheltered Hearts Animal Rescue. She also posted information on Craigslist.
"We had a hard time just picking the six (dogs)," said Whaley, whose Sheltered Hearts Animal Rescue is working to find homes for the pets. "There were so many wonderful animals there."
McBride estimated that several hundred animals have been adopted in the past two weeks.
"I've had people from Michigan e-mailing me. We have contacts all across the country trying to help with this situation," she said.
The state and the shelter agreed late last year for the shelter to transfer ownership of the animals and close the shelter.
The state plans on having the shelter cleared by March 14, McBride said.