Staffing needs, vehicles are shelter concerns

Published 6:55 pm Tuesday, July 10, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Isle of Wight County Sheriff James Clarke is asking the county to look at staffing needs at the Animal Shelter as shortages due to extended medical leaves have run up the bill for overtime. 

Other concerns were also addressed, such as worn out vehicles and the food the animals are fed, during a Thursday work session of the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors. 

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Currently, the shelter employs a chief, three full-time officers, one full-time and two part-time kennel assistants, as well as relying on an army of volunteers and two inmates from Western Tidewater Regional Jail, to keep the shelter operating, said Clarke. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Clarke said additional personnel would allow his department to add a swing shift to relieve the burden on the officers who often respond to calls after-hours. 

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton told the supervisors that the Sheriff’s Office had asked for two full-time employees during the run-up to the fiscal 2019 budget, but the county had hoped that the staffing issues would resolve themselves. 

In the meantime, a deputy has been assigned to help out, said Clarke.

Lt. Tommy Potter with the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office said Monday that animal control officers respond to a wide variety of calls, from dogs and cats, to cows that are loose to reports of raccoons in the yard, and those calls come at all hours. 

Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice wanted a proposed organizational chart, as well as a log of the number of calls, the types of calls and how calls are handled before giving the OK for additional staff. 

Clarke said Animal Services was also using four worn out vehicles with mileage ranging from 160,000 to 240,000 miles. The older vehicles are not equipped with climate-controlled boxes for the animals — as now required by law.

An internal investigation of the agency was launched recently after a dog suffered a heat stroke while being transported in an older model box — a mix-up that almost led to the black lab being adopted out without his owner’s knowledge. The owners had both been hospitalized when Duke was removed from the home, according to information provided by the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office.

Meanwhile, the county is awaiting the delivery of two new vans with climate-control — amenities that would have prevented the incident with Duke, the black lab, said Keaton. 

Clarke declined to talk about the investigation other than it is leading to improvements within the agency.  

Keaton said other concerns at the shelter centered on the quality of food being fed to the animals, as well as how long the animals were being kept. 

Clarke said Isle of Wight County runs a “low-kill” shelter, which can extend the amount of time a dog or cat is kept before being adopted or euthanized. 

Potter said that the reasons for an animal being euthanized are health issues or that it has been at the shelter for an extended amount of time. However, there is no hard and fast rule on what is considered an extended amount of time, said Potter, who added that the agency is currently drafting a set of policies and procedures for the shelter.  Those policies will include how long animals will remain at the shelter, he said. 

Potter said some animals have been at the shelter for up to nine months, depending on space, but Animal Services does its best to place an animal with the Humane Society or another rescue organization. 

As for the food the animals are provided, the shelter purchases a consistent brand and donated food is sent along when an animal goes to another rescue organization or Humane Society. 

Another issue under review is the practice of spaying and neutering every animal that comes to the shelter, said Clarke.

Last year, the shelter had a disease outbreak that killed several animals that had been spayed and neutered and that money was lost, Clarke said. 

Grice said the shelter needs a public relations program to increase adoptions.

Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said the shelter’s social media sites get more hits the than the county’s sites. 

Carrsville Supervisor Don Rosie said the animal shelter needs to publicize its mission more clearly and explain its practices, such as the definition of a low-kill shelter. 

Potter said that on Friday, there were more than 50 dogs and 60 cats at the shelter. 

A check of the dogs available for adoption on the shelter’s website Friday listed pit bull-type and hounds — the predominant breeds that are generally found at Isle of Wight County’s shelter. 

 Clarke said in a phone interview Friday that those breeds can be difficult to adopt out.  {/mprestriction}