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Pender County animal shelter fails inspection report

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PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- Complaints are mounting about problems at the Pender County Animal Shelter. Allegations include theft of county property, misuse of donated materials, abuse of animals and other misconduct.

County manager Mickey Duvall has requested the Sheriff's Office investigate any potential wrongdoing at the shelter.

"There were allegations made that things were given to the shelter that are not at the shelter anymore. We're just starting," Sheriff Carson Smith said.

One volunteer called the Pender County Animal Shelter a "den of thieves." A place a former shelter employee says workers can take as much food, medicine, supplies, bedding and household items as they want. "My biggest concern was the theft of county property. Basically, if it wasn't nailed down it was a free for all," Billie Whittenton, a former shelter employee said.

"Those are just allegations. Again, we're going to try and go through and pick out allegations that possibly could be criminal and then look into them and that's all we can do on the law enforcement side when it comes to this and it's just going to take a little time," Sheriff Carson Smith said.

Last week the shelter failed a state inspection. Among the violations, the report says cats were left in a trap for three days without a litter pan. "If you know what a trap looks, like it is specifically designed to trap an animal not to house it. It cannot turn around, it cannot move in a trap," Whittenton said.

The inspection report also says there were 18 sick cats that had not received medical care that day.

Shelter manager Darlene Clewis wanted to go on camera and talk about the issues and accusations, but she needed approval from county manager Mickey Duvall to speak publicity. Duvall called us back late this afternoon and says he will talk on camera tomorrow.

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So sad :(

So sad :(

Animal Control in Pender County

The Pender County Animal Shelter, started in 1996 has always been underfunded, and understaffed. Commissioner Williams, at the meeting on the 18th, described the situation perfectly when he said the county commissioners had other “priorities” to consider. It was clear to any observer that Mr. Williams was very annoyed, even to be discussing the shelter or its perceived problems. In fairness to Mr. Williams, since the beginning of the program county commissioners have never considered the Animal Control Program (APC) to be even “medium” or “high priority.” When the program was started in 1996 by the County Manager, the intent was to spend as little money on the program as possible. From 1996 until the middle 2000’s the entire ACP was staffed by three people. In 1996 the County Manager, who was then acting as the interim health director, started the animal control program. The manager moved three landfill employees to the health department to work in animal control (Ms. Clewis, Bob Coleman and Jimmy Fields) with Mr. Fields as Supervisor (None of the employees were trained in animal control procedures, regulations or rules. At the time, none of the employees were trained in rabies control, animal care and maintenance, or in euthanasia. Each employee gained licensure and certification in animal control rules and regulations by the state veterinarian as they worked as animal control officers).

When the shelter structure was built in 1996 it did not have window panes in the structure, just open areas where windows should be, providing openings to the outside, covered by wooden shutters to close out the weather. Originally, the shelter had no air conditioning, an insufficient number of cages to house the growing animal population, and little necessary equipment. Cages were not built to specification for cleaning and ease of care for the animals. In the middle to late 2000’s the shelter was refurbished, with air conditioning, windows with panes, increased number of indoor cages with access to outside runs, and outside cages. Some money for repair and cages was donated by animal rescue groups in the area. The primary role for the ACP in the health department was rabies prevention and control, and I believe the staff did a fine job working on the growing rabies problems in Pender County. From the beginning in 1996, the health department administration focused on adoptions, with only unadoptable animals euthanized, and the most humane euthanasia possible ( the health department used the same euthanizing procedures that veterinarians use: first a sedative, and when the animal is unconscious, the heart stopping medication is administered (for costs purposes, other animal control programs in this area used what I consider more barbaric forms of euthanasia, i.e., gas and a containment tank). I believe that through the years, animal control personnel took great care to see that no animal suffered needlessly (I find it difficult to believe that anyone in the ACP would sanction throwing live animals into an incinerator).

One other point: AC staff never had more than petty cash at the shelter. AC staff were required to take any cash or checks to the administrative office at the health department by the close of business each day. A lock box was maintained at the shelter for after five or weekend activity. All equipment was bar-coded by the administrative officer at the health department. AC Officers frequently collected donated food for the animals from grocery stores in the area (I never once had a complaint of anyone stealing anything, food or equipment, from the shelter, although as I recall one time someone broke into the isolated shelter and “stole” his dog that had been impounded by animal control). After September, 2010, I lost contact with the ACP and staff. When the program was moved to the Sheriff’s Office I felt that the move might be a good idea since funding would likely be increased (New Hanover County has recently moved its ACP to the Sheriff’s Office). Funding for the program was increased, additional equipment purchased, and staff added. However, as the Sheriff in Pender County noted, his primary responsibility was animal control. I believe that the Sheriff’s comments might be construed to mean that his Office was not primarily concerned with animal care, adoption or euthanasia.

Just Allegations

"Those are just allegations" was the reply from Sheriff Carson Smith. Unless I am mistaken, those allegations are against a (then) division of his organization. Sheriff, to characterize them as "just allegations" makes it seem as if you are trivializing the theft of government property by your employees. I hope that in reality, it is not such a trivial matter that will warrant more than "looking into them".

Wilmington Observer

PENDER COUNTY SHELTER what a disgrace

well I would hate to be stray cat or dog in that county. No volunteers allowed in to help and now banned. DEATH CAMP NOW.. NO ANIMALS GETTING OUT NOW. Truth is told and in return the town wants to sit on their butt give half baked answers for the plan of action.

Pender county shelter is now number #1 for worst shelter in NC.

Pender Shelter

The report failed to mention the fact that the 18 cats were so sick that they were put down immediately while the state inspector was there. The report also omitted the trapping and killing of possums, which is prohibited by state law unless authorization is received from the wildlife commission, which the shelter never received. It is one thing to put down sick animals, but all possums trapped were killed. They do not even carry the rabies virus, so why are they being killed? As for the stealing, Darlene Clewis was asked at the class for volunteer orientation held on Feb. 16th, what was going to be done about it. Her reply, which was recorded on tape, was "I told them to stop". By her response, it appears as if she knew what was happening all along. If my employees were caught stealing, they would have been fired on the spot. We do not need someone like this employed by the county and paid for with our tax money, let alone left in charge of a shelter and employees.

She used to care...

Shelter manager Darlene Clewis cared about the animals at one time. I guess she has boarded the Jean McNeal train...its a shame.

Darlene Clewis needs to step

Darlene Clewis needs to step down this shelter has always had a bad name and she is the one that has been in charge basically for the last 15 years. Stealing is not allowable and should not be tolerated - they should all be fired - they are incompetent and are inefficient. Pender County should CALL FOR HER RESIGNATION