Major problems in Chatham County Animal Shelter

By Beth Hayes

Pittsboro, NC – We have some major problems in Chatham County. Rescue is my life’s work. I need to begin by stating I am not a Democrat or Republican. I don’t really like what either party is doing and don’t see them making much/any progress within the parties or with one another.

Photo by Ryan Walton

I have watched the state of animal welfare in our county plummet over the past two years and it breaks my heart for the strays not receiving help at the shelter. When the shelter changed hands from the Health to the Sheriff Department, the new manager told us not to come back until we had an appointment. She stated that “all rescues want to do is take all the good stuff and leave the crap” for her. Any of you that follow rescues know we take dogs with serious injuries and illnesses, which cost a huge amount of money (all money we raise ourselves, not tax payer money like the shelter) We were told that Sheriff Roberson wanted the adoptions to go through the shelter and not rescues.

[The former shelter manager had reached out to us and informed us that folks were asked to make appointments due to Covid. The shelter had to limit the amount of people in the shelter at one time and the only way to do that was to schedule appointments. – editor 10.24.22 22:06]

I started by setting up a meeting with the interim director and the manager. The meeting was attended by me (rescue director), the president of the other major rescue in Chatham County, the interim shelter director, the manager, and a brand new animal control officer. The meeting was totally a bust. We were told the same thing (don’t come back), not allowed to share everything that we needed to discuss, cut off by the interim director, ridiculed by the AC officer, while the manager lied about what she had said to us.

I reached out to the permanent director for a meeting when she was hired. By this time the manager had left. The director never replied. I reached out to three more staff members at the shelter to no avail. Our rescue is now supporting other shelters, all of which appreciate our partnerships. We have mutual respect for one another.

I’d like to share some of the email I sent to the Chatham Chatlist in August.

“Let’s look at the EFFICIENCY of our county shelter. I have provided links for those of you who wish to verify. This is public data collected from public shelters each year by the NC Department  of Agriculture

In 2021, Chatham Shelter under the direction of our sheriff took in 451 animals, spending $1,104,472.00. That’s $1110.02 per animal and higher than all but one NC County.  Please note that Chatham County’s report to was submitted late, so their data is not included in the annual report
2021 Annual Report: LINK
Chatham Co Late Submission: LINK
In 2020, Chatham Shelter under the direction of our sheriff took in 401 animals and spent $897,813.00. That’s $1024.90 per animal, the most spent by any county in NC. LINK
In 2019 under the direction of the health department (pre-sheriff) the shelter took in 662 animals spending $807,926.00. That’s $506 per animal. LINK
And in 2018, took in 665, spent $807,926.00.  $569.76 per animal.  LINK
*It’s worth noting that the shelter currently has 13 employees (shelter staff and animal control officers). Pre-sheriff, there were 8 full time employees and one temp (who cleaned  the facility and kennels)
In Summary:
– The current shelter is taking in around 50 percent to 65 percent less animals with more employees. This is due to the change from being an “open intake” shelter to being a “measured intake” shelter. The previous shelter staff took in ALL animals in need.
-The new 5.5 million dollar shelter is using a fraction of the dog kennels available.
– Citizens are being told to care for strays. The shelter is setting up appointments to receive strays up to 3 weeks later. We know this because a large number of individuals contact us for help when it is not provided by the shelter.
– More unvaccinated strays who are not spayed or neutered are roaming the county presenting an increased danger to humans and pets.
– Animal control is not helping with many dangerous strays.
The transfer of the shelter from the Health Department to the Sheriff’s Department has been a massive failure. As a citizen, taxpayer, and animal rescuer I expect more. You should, too.”

This is not all of the battles we have fought with the shelter. There are many more. Now it truly blows my mind that so many people are planning to support this sheriff knowing this information. This is not hearsay, these are facts provided by the shelter each year as required by law.

Animals are suffering. Citizens are being turned away and put in harms way with the expectation they will care for largely unvaccinated and intact strays. Pets and livestock are being killed by strays that Animal Control refuses to help with. Citizens being told to shoot strays. I myself have had the experience of a stray dog coming on my property (for 4 months). No help from Animal Control and I was told to shoot the dog. I trapped the dog myself and then Animal Control refused to pick it up. Only when I told them I was going public did they come by to get the dog.

Do you care about animals of Chatham County?  I’m sure most of you do. Please, please we need a change. Rescues are tired, and can not possibly pick up the damage left behind from this shelter. We can’t even comment on the shelter’s Facebook page because the sheriff has closed the page to comments, as he has with his Sheriff Department page.  Who will help?

I’ve voted for Sheriff Roberson in the past. I can no longer support him.