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Owner surrenders suspended as animal shelter makes repairs

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Construction on the new addition of the Pitt County Animal Shelter is shown in March. As the county waits for its $2 million animal shelter expansion to be completed, part of the old shelter has had to be closed for repairs.

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By Kim Grizzard
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, May 16, 2019

As the county waits for its $2 million animal shelter expansion to be completed, part of the old shelter has had to be closed for repairs.

County officials announced on Wednesday that the shelter would not be able to accept pets surrendered by their owners while work is being completed in the dog housing area. Work is expected to take two to three weeks.

Pitt County Animal Services Director Michele Whaley said that an April 30 inspection by the state Department of Animal Welfare identified areas of rust and peeling paint, along with cracks in kennel floors.

“Obviously, with an old building, we just had some repairs,” Whaley said. “It's natural wear and tear that happens in a shelter.”

While some issues, including replacing automatic waterers, could be handled without disrupting operations, kennels have to be emptied for painting and sanding work. With the anticipated completion of the shelter expansion still more than a month away, Whaley said that failing to address concerns revealed in the inspection was not an option.

A previous inspection had identified similar problems but had not required the shelter to take action as long as the renovation remained on schedule and the areas did not deteriorate further. But last month, inspector Pat Sholar “contingently/conditionally approved” the shelter's facility compliance inspection, noting that issues should be corrected within 30 days.

“It appears there is considerable work to be finished before the shelter occupies this new building,” Sholar wrote. “Although I have witnessed a new building still in construction and have been advised of the renovation plans for the existing shelter, repairs must be made to keep the existing operating shelter in compliance with the Animal Welfare Codes.”

Whaley said failure to address problems identified in the inspection could result in fines or loss of license for the shelter.

“We kind of hate to spend money on areas that are going to be renovated,” she said. “But, then again, it's the law; it's the code.”

The expansion, which originally was scheduled to be completed in January, is expected to be ready for occupancy by the end of June. Following the opening of the new facility, the portion of the building where stray dogs and cats currently are held will be renovated to accommodate cats.

For now, about half the current kennel area is undergoing repairs, resulting in limited space for animals. Officials said regular animal services will be maintained during this time. However, the shelter will not accept pets surrendered by owners because some kennels must be reserved for emergencies, such as dangerous dogs or quarantine cases.

Shelter officials routinely advise owners to call to ask about available space before attempting to surrender a pet.

“We always tell them on a good day we should be a last resort,” Whaley said.

She also said that people should refrain from attempting to pick up stray animals to bring to the shelter but instead should contact the animal services agency that is responsible for the area where the animal was found.

“We have a lot of people that mean well,” Whaley said. “I want people to understand because of space, it's not really a good idea to pick up these animals. If I don't have a space to put it in, when all the spaces are filled, I don't think the public would support mass euthanasia. .. That's not a solution that's acceptable.”

The new facility will house 32 inside/​outside kennels for adoptable dogs, along with a puppy room, restrooms, two inside get-acquainted spaces and a laundry/​storage area. Whaley said the expansion will reflect the shelter's emphasis on finding homes for animals rather than having to euthanize them.

“I think it just reiterates why we needed the construction,” she said. “Back in the day when shelters were just built, they were the word we hate, they were 'pounds.' Animal welfare has evolved and progressed.”

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