Guilford County Commissioner Carolyn Coleman publicly came to the defense of former Guilford County Animal Shelter staff who pled guilty to animal cruelty charges for their actions while running the Guilford County Animal Shelter and the Davidson County Animal Shelter years ago.

Coleman made her remarks at the Thursday, Sept. 19 Guilford County Board of Commissioners meeting when the board voted to add a half-dozen new positions at the Guilford County Animal Shelter. Coleman placed much of the blame for the giant scandal four years ago on Guilford County government rather than on the shelter management at the time who received the blame.

In August 2015, the Guilford County Animal Shelter was at the center of one of the worst animal cruelty scandals in the history of the state, and former Guilford County Animal Shelter Director Marsha Williams, and two top members of her staff, were charged with animal cruelty after state investigators found over 60 instances of cruelty and neglect at the Guilford County shelter. State investigators also found additional instances of neglect and cruelty at the Davidson County shelter, which was also being run by the team from Guilford County at that time.

Williams was never charged in Guilford County but she was charged in Davidson County with felony animal cruelty and she eventually pled guilty to a lesser charge. The two other members of her staff also reached plea deals.

It took years for Guilford County to recover from the scandal and get the shelter on track.

When the Board of Commissioners approved the new shelter positions on Sept. 19, Coleman aired her view that one problem in 2015, and the years leading up to it, was that Guilford County didn’t properly support the shelter when it was run by Williams and by the now defunct non-profit, the United Animal Coalition (UAC), the organization the county contracted with to manage the operation.

In the wake of the scandal, the UAC was fined out of existence by the state.

“It troubles me that we took a lot of pain to make the last staff look bad,” Coleman said. “Some people were arrested or what have you, and most of it came because animal lovers felt that they were not getting the services that they should have gotten. We did not hire one veterinarian – now we’re hiring two veterinarians.”

Coleman said that, now, of course, the shelter is doing well because Guilford County is spending freely in support of the shelter.

“I want us to remember that we did have some people come through here that tried to do the best they could with what they had – and we never, never acknowledged that,” Coleman said.

The remarks raised some eyebrows because, though it’s no doubt true that the shelter in 2015 could have used more resources, the findings of state investigators included many instances of animal treatment that were entirely unacceptable at any level of funding.