More than 50 people turned out for the first organizational meeting to help the Anson County Animal Shelter get off the ground.
Tentatively called the Friends of the Anson County Animal Shelter, the organization will become a 501(c)(3), which will enable citizens to donate to the cause and receive a tax break.
A committee has been diligently working on planning the animal shelter for the past few months, Sheriff Tommy Allen said. “Our level of success is going to depend on volunteers,” the sheriff said. “We really are pushing this project so we have as low a euthanization rate as possible. We want to change our 95 percent euthanization rate to a 95 percent adoption rate.”
Interim Health Department director Wayne Raynor said the facility, provided to the county by veterinarian Dr. Danny Wright, is a high-quality one with a great location on U.S. Highway 74 in Polkton. The site is almost 4 acres. The main building was constructed in 1999, with additions in 2000 and 2003, Raynor said.
“It is well suited for animal control services,” he said. Raynor added that proposed operating hours for adoptions will be 1-4 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. The shelter will be open every day by appointment.
“Our vision is to have a state-of-the-art operation,” he said. “We want to maximize adoptions and minimize losses.”
County Manager Lawrence Gatewood started his part of the program by asking how many of those present had been born and raised in Anson County. The vast majority of hands shot up, to which Gatewood responded that he was born and raised in the county as well. “When I was a little boy,” he said, “a stray took up at my house. We named it Blackie.” Gatewood explained that he and his family didn’t know whether the dog was male or female — until she gave birth to a litter of puppies.
“We did what most people would do in that situation,” he said. “We took her to an upscale neighborhood… and let her out of the car, and we knew she’d find a good home.” He went on to explain that circumstances such as Blackie’s will hopefully become a thing of the past with the new animal shelter.
He thanked the county commissioners for taking up the cause. “This time last year, this was not an active project,” he said.
He also praised the work of Dr. Danny Wright and Rep. Mark Brody and his assistant, Neva Helms. With their help, Gatewood said, the animal shelter was able to procure a donation of 1,500 pounds of pet food from Freekibble.com and Ellen DeGeneres’ natural pet food company, Halo, Purely for Pets.
The animal shelter project is on “a very aggressive timeline,” Gatewood said, with plans to open in April 2014. He’ll take a budget before the county commissioners at their January meeting, and will start hiring staff in February or March.
During a “brainstorming session,” those present offered to volunteer for various services, including helping to medicate and care for the animals, help in getting them spayed or neutered, and even providing photography services. There was also talk of involving high school students for internships at the shelter.
County Attorney Scott Forbes shared the details behind setting the organization up as a 501(c)(3). The group needs to decide on a name, establish a board and elect officers, set forth policies and procedures, and decide on a corporate office address, Forbes said. The process for setting the group up as a 501(c)(3) should take a few weeks, he added, although he was unsure how long it would take to procure the tax-exempt status.
When the floor was opened for general questions, one person asked how the facility is being funded. Gatewood responded that the county purchased the property from Dr. Wright, and will provide some of the funding, but the organization will depend on volunteers and donations as well.
Sheriff Allen also responded to a question about the shelter’s capacity, saying it could hold 50-150 dogs and cats, depending on whether there were more cats or more dogs at any given time.
One citizen also asked what will happen to the animals that are not adopted. “The reality is, some of them will probably be euthanized, but we plan to use that as little as possible,” Allen said. He added that the current pound will be closed down, and that there will be a security system on-site to deter people from dropping off animals after business hours.
The next meeting is planned for Jan. 14 at 6 p.m. at the Lockhart-Taylor Center in Wadesboro. Topics of the next meeting will include: a better definition of policies and procedures, a more formalized budget, bylaws for operations, and hours of operation.