McDowell Animal Shelter’s staff to start working at Burke shelter

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Three employees with the McDowell County Animal Shelter will soon start working for the one in Burke County, which is seeking to improve its shelter. What that means for McDowell is the local shelter will be without workers and replacements have to be found quickly. The departure of the staff comes after McDowell has made improvements to its shelter and greatly reduced the number of animals that were euthanized because they could not be adopted.

Three employees with the McDowell County Animal Shelter will soon start working for the one in Burke County, which is seeking to improve its shelter.

What that means for McDowell is the local shelter will be without workers and replacements have to be found quickly.

On Monday, July 1, the operation of the Burke County Animal Shelter technically moved under the county manager’s office. But the three new employees who will operate it won’t start work until Monday, Aug. 5. Burke County Manager Bryan Steen said that is because those three have given their notice to the McDowell shelter. Animal control will remain under the Burke County sheriff’s office and the shelter and its employees will be animal services, according to a story by The News Herald.

The three new Burke County animal services employees are:

Kaitlin Settlemyre, who will be the animal services director. She is currently the manager of the McDowell shelter.

Lindsay Stump, who will be animal services coordinator, and will be responsible for the shelter’s social media and getting information out to the public to get animals adopted. She is currently a veterinary care technician with the McDowell County shelter.

Alicia Grindstaff, who will be the animal services technician, and will be responsible for keeping the shelter clean and orderly. She is currently an attendant with the McDowell shelter.

The departure of these three workers comes after McDowell made improvements to its shelter and greatly reduced the number of animals that were euthanized because they could not be adopted. In 2018, the total number of adoptions for cats and dogs totaled 637. The total number of euthanasia procedures for last year was 48, the lowest annual total on record, according to county officials.

In addition, the McDowell shelter formed partnerships with animal rescue groups and installed an outdoor play area for dogs.

“We are proud of the work the shelter’s staff has done over the last year or so,” said McDowell County Manager Ashley Wooten to The McDowell News. “They have worked very hard to improve animal care. They have also made a great effort to strengthen partnerships with the animal rescue groups. We certainly wish them well with their new challenges.”

McDowell County has had the staff vacancies posted for more than a week now, according to Wooten.

“Our goal is to hire replacements before the end of July,” he said. “The current staff will stay on through the end of the month to help with the transition.”

McDowell Public Services Director Terry DePoyster said his department is already getting applications for the three upcoming vacancies at the shelter.

“We’re already in the hiring process,” he said to The McDowell News. “We’ve got people applying for the positions now.”

As for the three who are leaving, DePoyster said, “They are great employees. It will be a loss for the shelter in McDowell. But we do hope to benefit from a good working relationship between McDowell and Burke counties. We don’t anticipate any disruption in service.”

And the McDowell shelter will continue to rely on its partnerships with local animal rescue groups, he added.

Rhonda Lee, director of human resources for Burke County, said more than 180 people applied for the three positions. Steen said the three hired for animal services saw the job postings and decided to apply to Burke County. He said the county is pleased to have the opportunity to hire people who are passionate about finding good homes for shelter animals, according to The News Herald story.

Steen said he feels good about the three that have been hired for animal services.

“ We’re excited,” Steen said. “It’s a change in the operational model and I’m very pleased the commissioners were supportive of that.

Steen said commissioners are serious about turning things around at the animal shelter. Burke County has been a high-kill shelter despite the efforts of area animal rescues. The animal shelter euthanized animals due to space constraints. A 2017 Public Animal Shelter Report from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shows the Burke County Animal Shelter received 1,714 cats and euthanized 1,517, a nearly 89 percent euthanization rate. The shelter received 1,751 dogs and euthanized 715, a 40.8 percent euthanization rate in 2017. The shelter adopted out 787 dogs and returned 249 to their owners, according to the report.

The high rate of euthanization, along with an outcry from animal advocates, got the attention of Burke County Commissioners this year. They said in January they weren’t aware of some of the issues at the shelter, which was under the control of Burke County Sheriff Steve Whisenant.

The Burke board didn’t waste much time making changes at the shelter. In March, the board decided to take money from the General Fund, Fund Balance to clean, paint and buy office furniture for the shelter. The board also accepted recommendations from county staff for changes in operation of the shelter. It also took the first steps in the process of building a new shelter in the future, according to The News Herald story.

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