Sheriff pitches new animal control rules to county board

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Columbus County’s Animal Control lacks clear direction, purpose, and revenues, Sheriff Jody Greene told county commissioners Monday night.

Greene was appointed interim animal control supervisor last month. Director Loretta Shipman is on extended medical leave.

Greene asked commissioners to consider a new animal control ordinance that is a sweeping change over the county’s current rules. The new proposal was created from ordinances used by several counties that state officials recommended, Greene said.
It includes provisions to prohibit animals running at large; rules for exotic animals such as those that will be housed at Shizzy’s Wildcat Rescue in Fair Bluff; and a new proposed fee schedule that is in line with other counties similar to Columbus in population, Greene said.

The sheriff wants to change the management structure of the department to an “animal services” model, which would place it under the sheriff’s office. State law gives animal service agencies more leeway in investigations, criminal charges and enforcement. Greene said the sheriff’s office is meeting with state officials from the Department of Agriculture to make a number of procedural improvements at the shelter.

“We’re going at it like it’s an entirely new shelter,” Greene said. The process is expected to take four to six months.

Greene said a major problem at the shelter right now is that workers feel there is a “lack of direction.

“They don’t know exactly what they’re expected to do,” he said. Greene also said that the beleaguered department has “taken in no money that we are able to find.”

 “That’s not right,” Greene said. The shelter charges adoption fees to individuals and rescue groups. Accounting for those fees has been in question for several years.
In 2019, the most recent complete set of data from the shelter on the state Animal Welfare Division website, 1,071 dogs and 1,371 cats were taken into the shelter. Of those, 936 dogs and 1,237 cats were adopted. Owners retrieved 78 dogs and ten cats. The shelter euthanized 57 dogs and 128 cats.

Adoption fees for individuals are $135 for dogs and $85 for cats. That cost includes a spay/neuter voucher and vaccinations. Bona fide rescue organizations pay a lower rate.
Previous requests for an explanation of the rescue fee have not been answered by Animal Control Director Loretta Shipman, former County Manager Mike Stevens or Finance Office Bobbie Faircloth. Animal Control also did not provide a list of rescue organizations or how many animals went to those organizations in a previous request for information.
State data does not delineate between animals adopted by individuals or by rescue groups.

The county website says the shelter is currently closed “to all non-emergency intakes” due to staffing problems. Green received approval Monday to replace two part-time positions with one full time worker.

“There are four vacant positions there right now,” Greene said.

The shelter is still open for adoptions from noon until 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. The shelter’s page on the county website also says hours are from noon until 4 p.m. Last year, the shelter was widely criticized for only allowing animals to be viewed by appointment, due to COVID-19 concerns. Several potential adopters as well as citizens trying to retrieve their own pets from the shelter complained that staff missed appointments or refused to open the door for visitors.

Commissioners were ready to schedule a public hearing to gather comments on the proposal, but Commissioner Giles “Buddy” Byrd asked that the board put off the public hearing until the board had sufficient time to review it. Chairman Ricky Bullard suggested that the board hold a public hearing at the second meeting in April, and the board approved the move.
This is a developing story. Stay with z2j.c7e.myftpupload.com for more.

About Jefferson Weaver 1973 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at [email protected].