The Guilford County Animal Shelter got its first inspection from the state since the shelter was taken over by Guilford County in August 2015. The shelter got an “Approved” rating,
However, inspectors stated that that approval was contingent on the county addressing some problems found at the shelter.
Some of the issues have to do with the county’s aging facility at 4525 W. Wendover Ave. According to the report, the Animal Shelter didn’t meet electrical code in some respects, there were concerns about rust and peeling paint, food bowls and bedding, as well as concerns about the potential spread of disease due to overcrowding and the way some sick animals were being housed with healthy ones.
Guilford County took over operation of the shelter nearly a year and a half ago after state investigators discovered more than 60 cases of animal abuse and neglect under the shelter’s previous longtime operator, the United Animal Coalition (UAC). State inspectors also found multiple offenses of a similar nature at the Davidson County Animal Shelter, which the now defunct nonprofit also operated until August 2015.
When asked about the inspection results for the Guilford County shelter, Jennifer Kendrick, the public information officer for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees shelters in the state, noted improving conditions.
Kendrick stated in an email that, though there were concerns, Guilford County is making progress.
“The Guilford County Animal Shelter is cleaner than it’s been in past inspections and the maintenance issues are to be expected of an older facility,” Kendrick wrote.
She also stated that county staff seems to be willing to work to address the problems.
“There are concerns about the possible disease outbreak in the cat population, as noted in the inspection report,” Kendrick wrote. “The new director and veterinarian were very cooperative and open to suggestions about how to resolve these issues. We look forward to working with them to bring the shelter into full compliance with the state’s Animal Welfare Act.”
In the report, Christie Shore, an inspector with the Animal Welfare Section of the agriculture department, wrote that, in an area where cats were housed, electrical outlets were uncovered and the thermostat was damaged, hindering proper temperature control. Scratched or damaged shelves were also a concern and Shore wrote that they need to be covered with a surface impervious to moisture.
Some of Shore’s concerns centered on the spread of disease. Some sick cats that were supposed to be isolated hadn’t been, the report said.
Also, paint issues were a constant problem. According to the report, large sections of paint are peeling off in some parts of the shelter.
The report states, “In previous years, the painting has been done over the existing painting and has not adhered to the block. This continues to be an ongoing problem.”
In some areas, rust was an issue. One exam table had a large amount of rust and therefore couldn’t be properly sanitized, the report stated.
There was also a concern about an “oily film” on some of the shelter’s walls.
The inspector also noticed unsupervised dogs that should have been supervised in outside play areas.
The inspection stated that there was no empty cage available if a dog was brought in to be observed for rabies or for other problems.
The report states, “While the Animal Welfare Section understands that the administration and veterinarian have just recently been put in place at the facility, the corrections of the deficiencies noted in this inspection need to be completed in a timely fashion. The veterinarians’ recommendations for correcting the disease outbreak in cats need to be submitted … by November 28, 2016. A timeline of correction of the maintenance issues needs to be submitted by November 30, 2016. This inspection is noted to be ‘Approved’ contingent upon correction of these deficiencies.”
Guilford County Animal Services Director Drew Brinkley, who was named to that position a few months ago, said the concerns are being addressed. When asked what he felt were the most pressing concerns, he wrote in an email that they all were ones that should be dealt with.
“We are taking all of the elements of the inspection seriously and feel they must be addressed as a total package,” Brinkley wrote.
He added that Guilford County Animal Services is working with the county’s facilities staff to address the issues related to the aging structure and the maintenance of it. Brinkley also said he and staff are exploring ways to reduce the chances of infection spreading among the animals.
“Internally, we are engaged in an ongoing review of our policies and procedures to continue the development and implementation of operating guidelines consistent with best practices in animal sheltering,” Brinkley wrote. “We are also studying our use of space and animal flow processes, hiring new staff, and developing training to increase the effectiveness of our available resources.”
Guilford County is attempting to balance the need to keep the facility within the state’s animal shelter guidelines without putting too much money into the existing structure since the county is in the planning stage of building a new shelter.
Guilford County staff and commissioners said that facilities staff is in the process of finding suitable locations to recommend for the planned shelter. For much of 2016, many Guilford County officials hoped the new shelter would be put next to the Guilford County Agricultural Center on the 3300 block of Burlington Road. However, opposition from area neighborhood groups and some Greensboro city councilmembers have all but ended those efforts since the majority of county commissioners have no desire to engage in a fight over the $9 million project that they believe will be a big benefit to the area where it is built.
Earlier this year, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted to request a special-use permit from the City of Greensboro to use the Burlington Road site. However, it now looks like that request will never be made.
Guilford County’s Animal Services and facilities staff have begun discussions on how to best correct the maintenance issues identified during the inspection.
Brinkley stated the building’s shortfalls will go away when the new facility is up and running, but he added that it is still important to maintain the existing shelter while it is in use.
“A new facility will certainly address all of these concerns,” he wrote. “In the meantime, we must be sure we are operating the current shelter in accordance with the rules set forth in North Carolina’s Animal Welfare Administrative Code.”
Brinkley also stated that procedures are getting better.
“Animal Services staff have been engaged in a review of our operations to make improvements to the level of care provided to shelter pets,” he wrote. “We are taking a multi-faceted approach to address this issue. Elements of our approach include updating vaccination protocols, reviewing our shelter programming and use of space, providing enrichment, training staff, and streamlining recordkeeping and communication processes.”
The state inspection also commented on several areas where the shelter was excelling. It noted that workers from the Malachi House were doing a “great job” cleaning cat containment areas and other parts of the shelter. The workers from the Malachi House are also consistently praised by volunteers who work at the shelter.
Shore also noted that the county had about a much improved filing system that made it much easier for inspectors to check compliance.
Guilford County has until the end of the month to submit a plan for a course of action to address the concerns of the Animal Welfare Section.