Animal Shelter Faces Expansion Problems

Posted June 26, 2007 6:26 p.m. EDT
Updated June 27, 2007 6:42 a.m. EDT

— The state's largest no-kill animal shelter is under pressure to upgrade its facilities or get rid of some of the hundreds of dogs and cats awaiting adoption.

Friends for Life at the Haven houses about 1,200 animals, said Linden Spear, who founded the shelter in 1996. A couple of years  ago, state regulators said the shelter didn't meet minimum standards and revoked her license.

Spear was ordered to build kennels lined with concrete or gravel -- not just dirt -- for the animals. She said she has erected chain-link fences and spent $80,000 on gravel to build the kennels.

"These kennels are about to be doubled in size," she said.

But Spear said said regulators seem to be making more demands as time goes on. A Feb. 27 letter from the state Attorney General's Office to her attorney stated that two planned buildings at the shelter would be adequate for only 400 animals.

"Unfortunately, the Department (of Agriculture) is well aware that your client has held a population of well over 1,000 animals for quite some time,” the letter said.

"I do not believe we have too many animals here," Spear said, adding she worries about the fate of the 800 animals the state said can't stay at the expanded shelter.

Brian Long, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department, said the state isn't trying to force Spear to get rid of her animals.

“The facility she has is still not adequate to hold that large number of animals,” Long said. "We are willing to talk with her about options to balance that equation a little better."

One option is that Friends for Life at the Haven stop taking in new animals until Spear gets the population down to what the state deems a manageable level, he said.

Spear said the shelter has a high adoption rate, arranging 850 adoptions so far this year while taking in 900 new animals.

“The animals we take in, we get them healthy, we get them adoptable,” she said.

The shelter has at least 100 volunteers and a small paid staff to clean and care for the animals. It is funded exclusively by donations, and Spear has appealed to the public for help to come up with the money needed to comply with the state's requests.

A fundraiser is scheduled for July 7 at the Stonewall Fire Department on N.C. Highway 20 south of Raeford.