Letter to Smoky Mountain News

Our current Haywood County Animal Shelter is overcrowded, outdated, and unsafe for staff and the animals.    Its present location in a residential district is no longer in accordance with Waynesville’s zoning, is far from the county center, and has traffic and parking limitations.  Changes to the current structure would require zoning variances from the town–an unlikely event.

The shelter was built in 1988 with uninsulated masonry walls, poor ventilation, no areas for handling and/or isolating sick or injured animals, and insufficient space to quarantine for rabies observations.  Lighting is poor and heating/ventilation inadequate.  Flooring is impossible to sanitize and difficult to clean.  The noise level is often deafening to people and stressful to animals housed there as well. Ventilation and design in the cat ward allows respiratory infections easily pass from one cat to others.  We had such a terrible outbreak of feline respiratory disease last fall that the shelter director had to take 13 sick cats to a volunteer’s garage to prevent it from infecting incoming healthy cats.  In December, an outbreak of kennel cough among dogs forced the euthanasia of several ill dogs so as to contain disease since there was no place to house ill animals.

We currently have 14 dog runs, each with one side for urination/defecation and another for the animals to rest, sleep and eat.  However, due to the number of dogs housed, usually there are animals in both sides, so a dog must eat, drink, sleep, urinate and defecate in the same 3 by 8 foot area.  Even with this “doubling up” of space, several times last year, the shelter had to stop intake of dogs from the public, because there was no place to house them.

The current shelter has no private space for the director, staff or volunteers and files are stored in every available inch of space.   Adopters have no quiet place meet animals. People looking for lost pets, turning in strays or unwanted pets, and officers bringing in injured, dangerous or lost creatures all come in and out of the same doors in the same 10 foot square room–a dangerous situation for animals, public, and staff alike.

With partnerships between our shelter and animal advocacy groups, the shelter’s live release rate increased from 30% for cats and 40% for dogs in 2000 to nearly 90% in 2015.  Had our shelter not suffered the incidences of contagious disease last fall, it would have attained this 90% goal which is the level at which it would have been considered a “No Kill” shelter.  While this decrease in euthanasia is and should be applauded, it also means that although we have had fewer animals taken into the shelter than in the past decades, the animals that do come into the shelter are now being housed longer instead of being euthanized to create space for other incoming animals.  Other factors in the lower number of sheltered animal are the spay/neuter and community cat trap-neuter-return programs which decreased the unwanted and often sick/unadoptable puppies and kittens, many of which had to be euthanized in prior years.

Last autumn,  representatives of several county animal advocacy groups gathered to give input into what a new shelter should encompass.  Our architect, consulting with a firm which specializes in animal shelter design, is working to design a facility that will create more comfortable housing of animals, places for potential owners to interact with adoptable animals, animal isolation and treatment areas, and more space for the staff.

Our county, both its animals and its citizens, deserves a new, safe, welcoming, animal-friendly and people-friendly animal shelter.   If you would like to assist the Friends of the Haywood County Animal Shelter, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, in this effort with donations or by volunteering please visit www.hcasfriends.org, our Facebook page, or mail at PO Box 42 Waynesville, NC  28786.

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