Chatham County Sheriff Mike Roberson recognized for commitment to animal welfare

Pittsboro, NC – Chatham County Sheriff Mike Roberson was recently awarded the 2020 Humane Law Enforcement Award by The Humane Society of the United States “for his leadership in combating illegal animal abuse,” according to the official plaque.

Pictured left to right: Animal Resources Director Karen Rogers, Chatham County Sheriff Mike Roberson, North Carolina State Director for the Humane Society of the United States Gail Thomssen, and Animal Resources Lieutenant Stephen Renn.

The North Carolina division of The Humane Society of the United States shared on social media that the organization is “… thrilled to present Sheriff Mike Roberson of the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office with the Humane Law Enforcement Award for his work in fighting animal cruelty. Sheriff Roberson and his team… are doing some amazing work for the animals and people in their county and we are grateful for their partnership.”

Although the award was addressed and presented to Sheriff Roberson, he says the honor belongs to his staff.

“This award is a reflection of our employees, past and present, who have worked diligently in partnership with rescues, veterinarians, volunteers, academic institutions, non-profits and the public to facilitate positive outcomes,” says Sheriff Roberson. “It’s not just about the Sheriff’s Office. It’s about all of us working together to make significant, necessary advances in animal welfare in Chatham County and across the state.”

The Sheriff’s Office was first nominated for the award after encountering a cockfighting exhibition in progress in New Hill in February 2020. Deputies, investigators, and community partners leapt into action to process the scene, secure animals, tow vehicles, seize evidence, and provide necessary assistance. In particular, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture was instrumental in evaluating sick and injured birds and recommending a course of action to minimize the spread of communicable diseases.

Initial charges were taken out against the property owners, Margarita Juarez, 33, and Jesus Ibarra, 32, for felony cockfighting and misdemeanor cruelty to animals. However, the aftermath of the bust required extensive collaboration, including tapping into additional manpower, resources, and ingenuity to reach a timely resolution.

“It was an unprecedented situation for our Office, but we adapted quickly and reached out to our partners for assistance,” says Sheriff Roberson. “We are endlessly grateful to Guilford County Animal Control, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the veterinarians from N.C. State College of Veterinary Medicine, and of course The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for coming to our aid and providing professional services, medical care, and expert advice throughout the investigation.”

The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office first annexed Animal Resources, previously known as Chatham County Animal Services, in June 2019. Animal Services was a division of the Chatham County Public Health Department. Over the last year and a half, the Sheriff’s Office has rolled out a steady list of constructive changes, including improvements in records management, community outreach and education, animal care, staff training, facility design, equipment upgrades, calls for service and more.

“This is only the beginning. We have many more exciting updates ahead for the residents of Chatham County and their furry family members,” says Animal Services Director Karen Rogers. “Our new, expanded Animal Resource Center (ARC) is currently under construction and due to open to the public in 2021. However, we still need more manpower and resources to provide the same high standard of care within the much larger facility.”

“We are proud of each and every staff member, donor, volunteer, or resident who has come forward to adopt, foster, or provide enrichment opportunities and pet supplies for the animals in our care,” adds Sheriff Roberson. “Your partnership has made Chatham County a place of hope for creatures big and small, and we thank you for being part of the solution!”