I was torn on how to title this article. I briefly considered “SCAPS – The Helping Hand Grenade Discussion” but ultimately decided against it.
Recently there have been some totally misrepresented “facts” floating around social media with regards to Stanly County Animal Protective Services. (For future reference I’ll refer to this as SCAPS or just APS).
Let me start with one thing that I want to mention right off the bat that I think is critical for future communications about topics like this; hurling a hand grenade onto social media and pointing it at the board of commissioners and the county sheriff is about the worst possible idea you can consider unless you’ve exhausted all other opportunities first. And literally zero other options were considered first in this instance. Someone just pointed a pissed-off angry mob at county government with some misunderstood data they assumed was fact and sat back to watch the fireworks.
To be fair, I personally HAVE had conversations with owners of three different rescues/shelters in Stanly County over the last few months though neither of those were recent ones. They brought up concerns and I brought up relevant facts regarding those concerns and said something along the lines of “Knowing all that now… what do you see an an option?” Neither of them had any better ideas than I had.
I’m going to try to spend the time to put as much relevant information as I possibly can together in a way that I hope flows through to each of you readers in a constructive format – something you can chew on, think on, and suggest an idea for. Bear with me because as much as some people would like to argue, this problem is NOT one that’s just going to be answered with unlimited funding for a county-run animal rescue. That’s neither feasible nor is it an efficient use of county resources.
Let’s start with the comments thrown out on Facebook. It started with this post in a Facebook group.
Most of the other posts circulating around Facebook and email seem to be derived from assumptions made in this post that people accepted as fact. I’m not sure WHY people took a random comment on Facebook and decided it was gospel, but it’s the internet and apparently just putting it out there to be read is all that’s necessary for people to believe it.
- APS is cutting its hours of availability.
Totally incorrect. Hours have not changed.
- Animals there more than 30 days must be euthanized.
Totally incorrect, but decisions like that are inevitable and difficult decisions sometimes have to be made.
Further variants of this have evolved all on their own over the last 48 hours in addition to those. Some of those are:
- Stanly County has chosen to ignore state guidance recommending increased staffing.
No request has ever been made yet to the Board of Commissioners. The board meetings are open. Has anyone ever seen that come up and get denied? That’s because it never happened. More on that later.
- Stanly is a No-Kill shelter and is going back to a high-kill shelter.
WOW, that got drastic in one sentence didn’t it? Also not true, neither part of it.
- Adoption applications are being abolished and we’re just going to give an animal to anyone that wants one.
Diving into some of the facts
I don’t honestly know whether it’s better to just respond to each of those first, or dive into all the other issues that need to be considered when weighing all the accusations being thrown around. For the sake of clarity, let’s tackle the above issues first and then we’ll move on to the complex part.
APS is cutting its hours
This one is simple. No, it’s not. I’m guessing this is hearsay one person wrote based on what some other person told them. No one called the Sheriff to verify this. No one called the Chief Deputy to verify this. No one called me to verify this. (Not that I have any authority over this decision, but I could have verified it for them with one text message). I honestly don’t even know where this one came from. There are no planned changes to the hours of operation for APS as far as daily operating hours goes Monday – Friday.
Now, with Jana’s resignation, there might possibly BE some changes, but there are no planned changes at this time. Losing the shelter manager will likely result in some things being chaotic for a bit I’m sure and there might be some changes made because of that. No one can truly know that at this point, but there is no master plan to cut shelter hours.
There IS going to be a change to the weekend adoption Saturdays. This was on Jana’s recommendation, not some decision made by command staff that overruled her. The shelter manager decided this herself and command staff agreed.
For quite awhile now the shelter manager has offered to work Saturdays, giving up all four Saturday’s of her month every month to be open for special events and adoptions. The assumption was that more people would be able to come out on Saturdays to adopt than would be able to during the week. This also meant our shelter manager had to take off one day a week and the shelter was only manned by our part time staff member during that weekday each week.
Well, again, on the manager’s recommendation, they are changing it to one Saturday a month because quite honestly it’s pretty slow on Saturdays most of the time. Mondays are busier and she would get more done working on Monday. So there’s the big conspiracy folks.
The person that decided to open on all four Saturdays did it for a while and decided it wasn’t really doing much for the community and that they did more on Mondays, so it made sense to stop doing it every weekend. At some point soon, they will be going to one Saturday a month to still be there for people that can’t visit on weekdays. That’s the hours conspiracy put to rest.
30-Day Kill Clock on Animals in the Shelter
Incorrect. This is one of those that takes reality WAY out of context for the purpose of getting people riled up. It was written for shock value, but it’s not in any way factual.
Funnily enough, there was a recommendation to implement a 30-day euthanasia policy, but that recommendation came from the state, not the staff at SCAPS or command staff.
Let me clarify this a little more with some recent examples. We had a situation this year with a dog that had apparently been in the shelter since February. This animal has been here for six months at this point, not been adopted, not been rescued, and was holding a cell.
From my personal viewpoint, that animal was no better off in the shelter than it would have been if it had been euthanized. If you’re going to keep an animal in a cage for six months, and no one wants the animal, for God’s sake put him down humanely. But that’s just my “personal” opinion on the matter.
Let me quote the county veterinarian, Dr. Amy Jordan on that particular issue.
If you keep a dog at the shelter for 90 days and he cannot get adopted, how many other dogs were displaced and denied assistance because that one individual was taking up that spot. When space and resources are limited, you have to do what you can to maximize the amount of good you can do with those resources. There are many factors to be considered not the least of them is the social responsibility you have to the overall health and welfare of the county’s animal and human population.Dr. Amy Jordan, County Veterinarian, Member CHSA
My civic responsibility viewpoint is a little more harsh and much more inline with what my wife stated above. We KNOW we have a problem with overcrowding. There are too many animals that need help that can’t get it because the shelter is full. If that animal sat in the same kennel for six months with no hope for adoption and wasn’t rehomed, turned over to a rescue or another shelter, or euthanized, then I hate to be the one to say it like this but how many other animals didn’t get rehomed or adopted because no one wanted to make the hard decision and chose to let that one stay there for half a year? SOME decision should have been made LONG before the chief deputy had to be the one to make it.
Having said all that, I’m going to include a direct quote from the Sheriff he emailed to me a few minutes ago regarding the euthanasia conversation, so you can hear it directly from the source.
In lieu of Mrs. Aviles resignation and the current comments that are circulating on social media, I wanted to address and clear up some of those statements.
Regarding the comment of the shelter going backwards and becoming a Kill Shelter, I assure you that will not happen. The staff at the Animal Shelter have worked too hard to obtain a better than 95% survival rate and we are not going to do anything to jeopardize that. We will continue to strive to become a better organization. Mrs. Aviles has done an outstanding job since she came to work with us. We cannot thank her enough for the network of rescues, volunteers, and veterinarian care facilities at our disposal.
It is my understanding that someone has made a comment that animals will be euthanized after being in the facility for 30 days. Once again, that is not true. Euthanizations only occur as a last resort. When necessary, euthanasia is carried out with respect to the animal by a certified euthanasia technician following best-practice guidelines set by the NC Department of Agriculture.
If you can think of any other questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to me and I will do my best to assist you.Sheriff Jeff Crisco – Email to Chairman Tommy Jordan 08/30/2022 – 1654 hrs.
Stanly County has Ignored State Guidelines re Staffing
This is also incorrect. It’s incorrect because “Stanly County” and by that definition I assume you mean the Board of Commissioners hasn’t ever received a request for increased staffing for shelter personnel. We DID approve a new deputy position there two months ago, but we didn’t turn down an additional staffing request because….. wait for it…… WE HAVEN’T RECEIVED A REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL STAFFING!!!
Oh my God? Are you saying someone is a liar?
Yes, I am absolutely, 100% unequivocally stating that anyone that says Stanly County has turned turned down a request from APS for additional shelter staff is lying!
How do I Know?
Funny you should ask. I know because I’m the one that’s been working with the Sheriff for the last year on finding ways to have the best opportunity for a staffing request to be approved when we finally do get one.
So let me be clear here. I (Tommy Jordan, as an individual board member) agree that Sheriff Crisco and the APS staff need some more staff in that building if they are going to do their job the best they possibly can.
But I also happen to be in the position that sees the budget. I meet with Andy Lucas. I know my fellow commissioners. I know how our taxpayers feel. How do I know? Because I worked from February until June just like all our other commissioners on budget meetings, budget requests, capital improvement goals, aligning the county’s goals with its financial capability, and all the other myriad crap that goes into thinking about the question “Can we afford XYZ new personnel?”
I know damned well, without a doubt, that if Sheriff Crisco came to the September commissioners board meeting and asked for two personnel for the shelter, he’d be told no. Flat out, no. I can almost guess the vote spread. I’d bet it would be 5-2 against with myself being one of the Yes votes as well as one other I think might agree right now.
The Sheriff knows that too. So does Chief Thompson. So does Tim Rogers. So did Jana. I know because I had that conversation with her myself not two months ago.
The sheriff, and his staff, have been doing a tremendous amount of background legwork to pull numbers, analyze calls, talk to other shelters, talk to other sheriffs, examine alternative ideas, and to perform all the other checks and balances that the commissioners are going to ask him about the moment he comes up to ask for two more salaried positions. Why? Because that’s the job.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons that can support asking for more personnel, but there are also plenty reasons that a commissioner might vote against it, and those are reasons that apparently none of these Facebook geniuses ever bothered to ask about. I’ll get more into all this later. Let me finish tearing apart all these accusations first.
Stanly County is going from a No-Kill shelter to a High-Kill Shelter. Kill ’em all!
This is another made-up statement that’s wrong on both ends. We are NOT a no-kill shelter. We are a “Let’s do anything possible to avoid having to euthanize an animal” shelter. There is a HUGE line between “anything possible” and “anything no matter the cost because killing kittens is evil and you’re all going to Hell!”
Jana’s policies have been a huge improvement over what Stanly County had before. I championed getting Jana hired in meeting with the board before the vote was ever taken. I met her, met with her and Sheriff, prepped her for the talk she was likely going to have before the board of commissioners. I worked hard to get her here to Stanly. I’m glad she came to Stanly!
All that aside, there has always been the realization that APS was going to come to the day when tough decisions had to be made. There are only so many county dollars that taxpayers are going to support spending to save dogs and cats, especially when feral cats are a HUGE problem in Stanly County. And that’s not the cat’s fault. That’s human’s fault.
Why is it human’s fault?
- There are crappy people out there that are too trifling to have their cats spayed. They literally let them have kittens and then dump 8 kittens off at the shelter, or even worse just let them run around and have even more kittens 9 months later.
- There are people that feed random stray cats every day but swear to God they’re not their pets because they don’t want to take care of their bills. They care just enough to feed a random animal and allow it to become a neighborhood nuisance.
And I’m just talking about cats here. There are crappy humans when it comes to dogs and other animals as well. But Stanly has a PROBLEM. We do NOT have enough room for every single animal that will be brought into APS. We’re never going to unless this HUMAN problem is addressed.
I’ll use a dog example for the sake of being easier to relate to. Let’s say we have 20 dog kennels. They are all full on Monday, ok? Tuesday morning a call comes in for an an aggressive dog case. A dog has bitten someone. By law (not because we want to or feel it’s right, but by LAW) we are required to hold that dog under a ten-day quarantine to see if it exhibits any signs of rabies.
Well, this might be a perfectly great pet dog. In fact it probably is. Maybe it bit a kid that was smacking it with a stick and the adult didn’t see it in time to stop the dog from reacting and snapping at someone’s kid (that’s called a Provoked attack). Maybe it was MY German Shepherd that bit someone that was trying to come through my yard’s fence – in which case she was doing her job. If all those teeth and that bark didn’t dissuade you from trying to enter someone where you didn’t belong, I guess the bite probably did the trick didn’t it? (that’s on my property and it was in its fence, so also not a crime for the dog to act accordingly.)
Did the dog do anything wrong? Not really. It’s going to be able to go home in ten days or so if everything goes well.
An APS deputy has to go get that dog and it HAS to be kenneled under quarantine. What happens if the shelter is full? Well, my assumption is that someone from the shelter calls around and says “I’ve got to free up space for one more dog. Either you take one of these dogs or I’m going to have to put one down.” There are five rescues/shelters in Stanly that I know of. Let’s say all five of them are full and no one can take the dog. Doesn’t matter. The law says we’ve got to find a place for that other animal that was just taken in.
Guess what happens? Chances are someone is going to have to make the decision to put one of the existing dogs down. Maybe it’s whoever has been there longest and has had no luck finding a home. Maybe it’s a sick one that might not make it. Maybe its any one of a dozen factors. At the end of the day, if a dog can’t find a home, a dog will have to be euthanized. That’s life. It’s not fair. It’s not nice. It’s not what anyone wants, but it’s reality. APS has a county legal obligation to fulfill a role of civic responsibility. Being a “rescue” runs secondary to that statutory responsibility. If they can save every dog and every cat, they certainly would. They can’t.
Let’s spend a minute putting a reality check on you, the reader for a moment, ok? I want to be sure you REALLY understand APS has to deal with.
As of today the shelter has a usable capacity of 25 dogs and 12 cat kennels. (Cats and kittens can sometimes be put together, as can some dogs, but these are just the hard numbers). That’s it. Anything over that number and they can’t be there.
What does Joe Public want to do about it? Well, honestly, let’s be real…. Joe Public could care less. “Most” of the public doesn’t want to know that animals have to be put down. They just don’t want to deal with stray cats leaving paw prints on the hood of their car.
Stanly County has the five rescues I know of. I talked to one of them today. They currently have 40 dogs and 35 cats on their property alone. That’s not counting fosters. Fosters can have up to nine animals without being licensed by the state, so let’s just assume that one rescue has five fosters.
- 40 Dogs (almost twice what APS can hold)
- 35 Cats (50% more than APS can hold)
- 5 fosters with 9 animals each = 45 animals fostered out.
- ONE rescue in Stanly that I know of is probably holding up to 120 animals per day and has no more room.
Let’s assume the other four are half that size maybe. So maybe they can handle 60 animals total each. That’s another 160 animals plus the 120 from the big one I know of, which equals volunteer agencies already handling somewhere in the realm of 280 stray animals that need homes.
APS can only process about 40-50 at maximum assuming there are some double-ups in kennels where possible.
So there are already, on any given Sunday, probably 330 animals being held somewhere every day that need a home. Why does someone assume that APS is supposed to be able to handle an unlimited number of animals?
If you want to complain about Stanly APS having to euthanize animals, then I have a challenge for you. Please go out and find about 380 families that want either a dog or a cat this week. We’d clear out every Rescue and every Shelter in Stanly County. But…. that would last for about two weeks.
Every single one of them would be full again in fourteen days because the number of animals needing care is unmanageable if the human problems remain unchecked.
If you REALLY want to help the problem, go start another rescue! Open an animal shelter of your own. These rescues and shelters are run with 100% donor funds. They don’t receive county funds.
My family does our part. Biscoe was a rescue. Ghost was a rescue. Drei was a rescue. Grady was a rescue. The ferret upstairs is a rescue. One of the previous ferrets was a rescue. The Sugar Glider we had was a rescue. We do our part to save as many as we personally can and everyone of them was an improvement to our lives, so I really DO feel the pull of some of these folks about wanting to save all the ones we can, but it’s not going to be possible to save every animal, and it’s also not the mandate of a county animal shelter. That’s not what they exist for. That’s what rescues exist for.
APS is a county-facility operated at the taxpayer’s expense – and I hate to be the one to have to say it, but taxpayers don’t have an unlimited appetite for someone else’s zeal for saving every kitten and puppy in the world. They just don’t. They will not tolerate it.
Doing away with the adoption application process
This is another one that’s just not true. Like a lot of these supposed facts, I know the only place they could have legitimately come from, but I’m not pulling the pin on that grenade. I’m just not. I’ll just say it’s disappointing that people that know better intentionally hyperinflate stuff for shock value.
There WILL be some changes to the application process, yes. The idea is that APS has to get some of these animals into homes. Right now, from the outside perspective, knowing the adoption application process (I‘m literally logged into the county form server looking at it as I type this) the process is a little restrictive. That’s not a bad thing. I know in my heart the idea of our thorough application process is to be sure animals get put into a GOOD home, not just ANY home. And that’s a good plan and comes from a good place. But the fact of the matter is that with too many animals and not enough resources (building or staff either one) the goal needs to be to get these animals into a place they can be loved. Is there a more perfect home out there for one? Yeah, maybe there is. But the time and resources spent trying to find it has to be justifiable and weighed against the need to get these animals placed.
No one is going to put an animal into a home that’s not a good fit if they can avoid it. No one would ever do that. But the fact of the matter is, and I agree with this, the animal would be better off in someone’s home being loved on than they would in that five by seven foot kennel for months on end.
Putting things into some perspective
I think I’ve now responded to all the accusations I’ve seen thrown around in the last 72 hours. Now I’m going to try to put some perspective on some of the things that we are ALL considering when trying to figure out how to best help APS achieve it’s goals. Bear with me because there’s a lot to consider.
The Human Aspect – Kids before Kittens
This is a comparison that comes up a lot when the rubber is about to meet the road in a budget meeting about staffing. There are people are that believe strongly about saving every kitten, but they aren’t the same ones running foster programs when it’s time to help out with funding human children’s problems or finding them homes. I’ve never understood that, but it’s true.
Our DSS director and Health Department work with a lot of human adults and children that can’t afford the things they need to have a healthy well-balanced life. That’s unfortunate that it happens but it’s the reality we live in.
One day in the very near future, I’m going to hear a fellow commissioner say something like “DSS needed six more staff members to help with children in Stanly County. We gave them three. Am I supposed to vote for more staff to keep animals cared for when I’ve got actual Stanly County Children suffering at the same time?”
And THAT is a very valid argument. There are a lot of things Stanly Government wants to do for Stanly County but NONE of those things can be done without an unlimited budget and we’ve never had that luxury. Four or five people out there want to raise the alarm and scream that we’ve got to save every animal but I’m not seeing them show up to budget meetings to fight for more nurses with the same fervor… or at all. To some commissioners, and myself if I’m honest, sometimes that is hard to see.
I want to do both. I really do, but if you’re going to ask me which is more important, I’d choose to hire another nurse before I’d choose to hire additional kennel staff – at least until such time as we have all the nurses or caseworkers we need for our kids. I love dogs. I tolerate cats. Both come second to humans.
SCAPS is a Work in Progress
Let’s be honest about this – APS is indeed a work in progress. The Sheriff took it over from what it was and he and Jana and his staff have turned it into what it is today. It’s come a long way in a short time, but no one is perfect. APS has problems that only get discovered when they hit a new hurdle. (When they’re good things we call them Milestones. When they’re bad things, we call them hurdles. Ever notice that?) Neither the Sheriff, nor Deputy Thompson, nor Rogers, nor Jana are the all-knowing professionals of shelter management. They’re learning and they’re reacting to issues as they become aware of them and those issues unfortunately take time to work out.
The phone system – The phone system sucks. I’m working on that with communications and with the APS staff. I’ve got some ideas to make things better with regards to that, but there are issues that have to be addressed, not the least of which is people calling Stanly Communications at 9 PM at night saying “I’ve got a cat in my yard.” Big deal. Is it trying to kill you? No. Good…. don’t feed it and it will go away. Our communications folks don’t say that, but I would.
Two hours later they call back. That cat’s back in my yard. Can’t you send someone to come get it?
I’m serious here. These are legitimate calls that come into APS every day.
There’s a cat walking in your yard? Who (besides you) cares? Meanwhile, one of the communications operators are busy trying to give instructions on how to administer CPR on a five year old and THIS kind of call keeps coming in night after night.
An other complaint is that folks aren’t getting calls returned. The Sheriff looked into that this week. Guess what? It’s a valid complaint. There ARE calls not getting returned. I won’t get into why because that’s bordering on a personnel issue and shouldn’t be discussed here probably. The point is, he found out about it and is handling it. He found a hurdle. He addressed it. It’ll be fixed going forward. Move on to the next hurdle.
They need more support staff
I agree with folks that the department DOES need additional personnel to help man the office while the deputies are out doing calls. Under the old system that was in place until this week, the shelter manager handled the office and the building and the deputy sergeant handled the deputies that ran calls. Both roles were adjacent to each other with neither answering to the other.
Maybe that’s not the right approach. Maybe that needs to be reevaluated. Maybe that worked well when APS was handling 30 animals and 200 calls a month but its not working when they’re handling 500 calls a month. I’m not saying that’s the solution. I’m saying it’s a possible solution.
Maybe instead of a shelter manager, we up the pay slightly that’s reserved for that position, and then split it to hire TWO shelter personnel that answer to the deputy in charge of APS. This provides a clear chain of command bottom to top and there is clear accountability up and down the chain. Maybe that’s a solution that would increase manpower but NOT increase the budget to the tune of $50K a year. Is that the perfect idea? I have no idea. In all fairness, it wasn’t mine. Someone told it to me today and I thought “Hmm, hadn’t thought about that but maybe that makes sense” so I shared the thought with the Sheriff. (Or if I forgot to, Hey Jeff… I got an idea… call me.)
Regardless, that’s a solution that deserves to be evaluated BEFORE committing funds to another full time position that will cost the county taxpayer 40K more a year. If there’s another way that equates to a 10K increase rather than a 40K increase, I absolutely guarantee the commissioners would like to have that idea talked out thoroughly and examined before they consider approving another salary.
Call Volume Has Increased – So did staffing!?
I’m going to come out and own this one on behalf of myself. Others can confirm or deny at their own pleasure. I’ve worked with Sheriff Crisco on this discussion for almost a year now. I remember when he came to pitch the idea to us that he needed another deputy. Calls are up. Call volume is up. We’re busy as can be. We need help!
The board approved it. Boom, new APS deputy. Everyone’s happy, right?
I learned this later talking to the Sheriff. In fact I think Ashley Thompson was with us when we had the discussion. I said something like “Well, you just got one more deputy. That’s got to help out with things in the shelter, right?” They both looked at me like I was the dummy and said as politely as they could figure out how “Umm, no sir.” I mean it was almost comical. I’ve never before seen Jeff try to figure out how to hide the look on his face that he must be talking to an idiot. I could literally see it. And then it clicked for me…
Flashing back to the discussion we has as commissioners, I know dang well that every other commissioner in the room was thinking the same thing I was when we approved that position. We were thinking that this new position was going to provide some “in-shelter” help to get things done around there; things like answering the phone, cleaning kennels, taking dogs out for walks, feeding, etc. That’s what we thought. Someone else might deny it, but I’ll go to my grave feeling like that’s what we all thought we were approving. I felt really good about helping out the shelter until that day when I learned I hadn’t accomplished a single thing on that front. The new deputy is definitely going to help, but not in the way I envisioned. That’s the biggest slip-up I think I’ve ever made as commissioner. I fundamentally didn’t understand the scope the way I thought I did. I’ll own that and admit it. I should have asked another question or asked it another way, but I thought I had it figured.
The Sheriff needed the deputy for call volume, or what’s called “calls for service.” It means he needed another deputy out on the road responding to APS calls. They are so busy responding to service calls from county residents that they can’t get their job done in a timely manner and their response time was suffering. This new deputy just helped spread the load out. It didn’t do a thing for the shelter’s in-house operations problems.
Are these deputies really that busy answering animal calls? And if so, why?
Yes. They are. And I know because I tried very hard to make sure we could track that even before the Sheriff took it over. The very first thing I asked of Jeff was to be absolutely sure we could track the performance of APS (well, it was still called Animal Control back then). I had asked many times over the previous year when animal control was under the health department how many calls were run in a month, in a year. No one knew. There was no system in place to track it. I knew this department was going to grow and those metrics would be crucial to getting approval for continued increases in resources as it found it’s footing and things leveled off.
Anyway, Animal Control…. Not even a paper log book? Surely we’ve got that! Nope.
There was literally zero tracking when it came to how many calls Animal Control were taking each month. That made it pretty tough for Sheriff Crisco to figure out how in the heck he was supposed to absorb this department when no one even knows how many calls they run. Thankfully, he took on the job anyway.
A few months after he took over I asked him what the first month’s numbers were. If I remember correctly he was first starting out and had a smaller staff but the number of calls that first month on the books were 132. He expected they’d climb, but that was the starting number his first month.
Keep in mind, Animal Control turned down a LOT of calls before this. Horse problem? Call someone else. Coyote? Call Wildlife. Skunk in your house? Call Wildlife. Stray dog at 11 PM? We’ll come out in the morning.
Sheriff Crisco didn’t do this. His initial approach was, and I can quote this by heart “I don’t care if it’s a gold fish in a mud puddle, we’re going to handle it.” Well, to quote McConaughey, “alright alright alright!”
Fast forward to August of 2022. I called communications today to get the report myself and I’ll share some numbers with you.
Deputies have responded to 1,364 calls between May and today. That’s 341 calls per month on average (recent numbers are higher, but that’s an averaged count).
- Animal Bite Calls: 142
- Animal Complaint Calls: 922
- Dead/Injured in Roadway: 31
- DOT Notification: 8
- Livestock in the Roadway: 70
- This isn’t counting all the other kinds of related calls they get or the ones that get filed under the catch-all category – but APS and Communications are working on a way to get ALL calls more clearly classified for reporting purposes. That’s just ONE more thing that had to be learned over time, so it’s happening, but nothing is immediate.
Of those Animal Complaints, 539 of those 922 calls were inside municipalities, meaning there are police departments that could respond to these instead of APS.
So while we’re admitting there is room for improvement, I’ll tell you something else the Sheriff has considered. Since over 50% of these animal complaints are happening inside city limits, how about having these police departments perform the initial response to see if APS is needed.
If someone is complaining about a stray dog in the yard and a well placed “Shoo” does the trick, do we really need to be rolling an APS deputy? Maybe if we could have the local PD handle the initial response, APS could be freed up a little to work more in-house? Is that the solution? Maybe not. But is it worth investigating? Absolutely! Let’s at least discuss that BEFORE we throw 50K at a new full time person maybe.
Charge the municipalities? It’s been considered. The sheriff’s approach of “we’ll handle it” I think has been taken advantage of by some of the police departments. I’m not saying it’s anything intentional or malicious, but I still think it’s occurred. Why bother rolling one of my PD cars when Jeff’s guys can handle it? I won’t say who, but I WILL say that one person had a talk with another person and basically said “You can start handling first-line support on your animal complaints or I’m going to give you a bill for rolling a deputy all that way five times a day for what amounts to being nothing 99% of the time.” As soon as that discussion was had, the call volume dropped dramatically from that area.
Maybe we DO consider charging the municipalities. After all, it looks like 50% of the calls are within their borders. We’re taking animals off their streets from their taxpayers, and the county shelter gets nothing from the municipality for that service. There’s nothing from stopping any municipality from opening their own shelter or having their own Animal Control departments. They could pay a per-service-call fee, or they can try to help out and alleviate the call volume, or they can open their own animal control. One neighboring county charges their municipalities $240 per call if they have to perform a service call in their area. That money helps to pay for their shelter costs. Is this the answer for Stanly? I don’t have that answer, but it’s worth a conversation before we commit to more county resources on an ongoing annual basis.
The TOTAL number of calls being run by APS currently are averaging 500 calls a month at this moment. That’s more than triple the number when they started.
Maybe we deprioritize calls a little bit?
I’m not saying this is a good solution either, but it’s one I’ve kicked around a little bit and only briefly mentioned to the Sheriff.
And while I’m on that – let me mention this. Sheriff Crisco never claimed to be the all-knowing animal shelter guy. He and his staff are very welcoming of ideas on how to improve things. There are always ways to make things better. Not every idea will work, but if you have an audience that is welcoming your input and you’d rather complain on social media than offer helpful suggestions, then you’re part of the problem not part of the solution.
Anyway, I had the idea of deprioritizing calls a little bit. If the shelter has xyz tasks that have to be handled each day, and those tasks require some particular number of people to do them safely, then we consider reprioritizing calls in favor of in-shelter administrative functions.
If it’s a bite call, an animal that’s hurt, a threat to life or something serious, by all means it gets handled, but until all of xyz tasks are completed each day we’re simply NOT going to have a full complement of deputies on the road running complaint calls, which currently accounts for 86% of all service calls run.
That means that the caller saying “There’s a cat in my yard” is going to be irate. There WILL be a public relations backlash. That’s a fact that APS, the Sheriff’s Office, and social media fans are going to have to deal with.
You’re going to start seeing posts on social media that say things like “APS has really gone down hill lately. I don’t know what’s going on over there. I called three times today and no one has come to get that cat out of my garage yet! Such poor service! They should be fired!“
That’s going to happen. I absolutely guarantee that will be one of the results if they adopt that plan or one similar to it. That person won’t care that they’re doing better by the animals by not taking time to respond to a BS call that could be solved by opening a door and walking away for a bit.
And APS will never say this. Communications will never say this. Jeff or Ashley will never say this. I, however, don’t have that particular filter (let’s remember I lost my re-election though, right?) but I’ll say it: Half of these calls are bullS&jt!
I’m SO tempted to tell my own little backstory here about the guy with the cat problem, but this isn’t the place for it… maybe as an addendum later. Moving on….
The truth is, there are a large amount of junk calls that come through APS but the Sheriff and his deputies are doing their job by handling all of them. In reality, some of them need to be delayed. They’re just not important compared to other things that need to be done.
Hierarchy of Tasks Approach
I spent about thirty minutes today on the phone with Elizabeth Garner, the new state inspector that’s putting the smack down on Stanly. She had a much more politically correct answer as to why she’s dropping the hammer on Stanly than I would have given her credit for, but again, I lost my election, so maybe I should learn a thing or three from folks like her. But then again, I’m the only one answering, so you’re welcome.
The point is – the previous inspector didn’t seem to care what went on. The issues that are causing Stanly to fail aren’t new for the most part. They’re things that the shelter shouldn’t have passed inspection on ten years ago but the previous inspector just didn’t care (my words, definitely not hers).
During our conversation I asked about possible solutions she had seen in her experience from counties with problems similar to ours or similar in size and make-up to Stanly.
Her idea was to possibly sit down and use a hierarchy of tasks approach towards shelter operations. Please keep in mind the Sheriff and Deputy Thompson already know this, but they’ve been too busy dealing with Facebook Hand Grenades to actually have time to do their jobs thanks to these yahoos waging a Facebook campaign against APS.
But I’ll share her thoughts with you – as I think they are definitely more in line with what a “shelter” should be doing rather than acting as a “rescue” instead.
Her idea was to sit down and explain to the staff that everything APS does has a hierarchical approach and that approach should be something similar to the following:
Public safety concerns are number one. Aggressive dogs, bites, quarantines, rabies concerns, etc. These are the number one reason APS exists. These are the ONLY reason APS exists, so these take priority over absolutely everything else. If you’ve got 15 kittens that need to be rescued and one angry raccoon that might be rabid, you deal with the racoon and the kittens can survive or not. They’re not the priority. You deal with public safety calls first and foremost.
The second most important aspect has to be ensuring that all the animals in your care are adequately provided for, cared for, well-fed, cages cleaned, and all the other things that are required to be doing your job responsibly.
Keep in mind, this also means that if you only have 1 person, but 50 animals and the state says you can only serve 15 animals with one person then your first order of business is reducing your population to 15 animals, regardless of how many kennels you have in the building. The building does NOT decide the level of care. The number of staff required to service x amount of animals is the ONLY deciding factor. The rest of the animals just don’t get saved. Sorry. That’s how it goes. There is nothing about APS that says they’re here to save every animal all the time. We have other rescues that can fill that gap themselves. (Now I’m waiting to see if one of them is going to say they’re understaffed or too full, because that would be rather ironic wouldn’t it?)
Strays and Complaint Calls
After APS has seen to public safety and the health and well-being, then they provide as much community service as possible given their available resources.
Some people have to learn this so I’m going to say it as many ways as I know how.
Having APS does not mean that every animal is going to be handled the way you want it.
Their job, their mandate, and even their reason for being is NOT TO MAKE ANIMAL LOVERS HAPPY.
It is to provide for public safety. Full stop. End of discussion. Seriously.. please understand this.
EVERYTHING ELSE IS SECONDARY AND DONE ON A BEST EFFORT BASIS. If you live in the county and you have a dog that is threatening to bite you, you have the legal ability to handle it however you need to handle it if APS wasn’t there to handle it for you. There is nothing saying you have to call someone else to do it for you.
I had a friend the other week that told me a story that’s worth relating. I love the guy! I do. He told me he called APS to come round up these kittens under his mother’s house. The cat she’s been feeding (for years!) had kittens AGAIN. Imagine that! Cats have two biological prerogatives: to feed and to breed. That’s it. Anyway, APS told him they couldn’t come get them because they were full. He called me and said “What’s up with that? How can they not come get these kittens?”
I said John (not his name), they’re legitimately full. They have no cat kennels available today. Where do you think they’re going to put these kittens? He didn’t know but his mother didn’t want them under her house. My answer was “Well, maybe she should have either gotten rid of the cat or had it spayed the FIRST TIME it did this and you had APS come handle her kitten problem! This is the SECOND litter of kittens you’re telling me about so that’s 18 cats that your mom alone has put on the taxpayer’s dime! APS does NOT exist to be a fallback for adults who are too complacent/lazy to take care of their own problems.”
This isn’t a single-instance kind of story. This happens every single day in Stanly, literally every single day of the entire year!
After the public safety aspect is handled, and the animals are cared for, and as many barking complaint or loose animal complaints are handled that the facility can handle are dealt with – after all that – if there’s any other spare time left, anything else can be handled.
Public: But we want adoption events!
Me: Then YOU organize one and fund it.
Public: We want free food drives!
Me: Great, we’d love to do that, but we’re currently understaffed so maybe coordinate with the other rescues and have THEM set one up.
The hard truth you’re not going to like:
APS is not a rescue. This is a hard truth that some out there in the community need to comprehend and come to terms with. It’s not designed to be tax-payer funded to be a place to dump unlimited animals someone is too lazy or trifling to care for. That’s a service it can hopefully provide when needed, but that is NOT it’s core purpose. That’s what all the rescues are for!
APS will give you a cat trap. You come get it, sign it out, use it, and bring the cat back. Ta-da. It’s almost like magic… except it’s not. APS deputies are not community maids. You’ve got a cat problem? Handle it like an adult. Maybe you’re 87 years old and can’t do that. Well, if APS had the free time from all the other BS calls they have to run, maybe they’d be able to help those people out. But the way APS is used by the public now (again, from my personal opinion) isn’t right, and speaking from my professional opinion, that’s not why taxpayers pay for it.
Public: There’s a dog running loose in my neighborhood in the city.
Me: Well, are you inside and safe?
Me: Is the dog scratching at your door?
Me: Then let the darn dog go wherever it’s going to go. It might be going home. If nothing about that animal looks threatening, just leave it alone like your momma told you when you were a kid and chances are things will turn out all right!
Public: Well, it might get hit.
Me: That’s true… it might. So might a squirrel, or a bird, or a racoon, or a possum, but you’re not calling APS every time a squirrel is spotted in the road, right?
Public: Well no….
Me: Then there you go sir… Same logic. Same conclusion!
A random animal being somewhere someone doesn’t think it should be might be a service call on a slow day if nothing else is going on, but if there’s more important work being done by the deputies and staff, then that dog might just have to hope it doesn’t win a Darwin award that day.
Give away the shelter
If you didn’t like my previous ideas, you’re certainly not going to like this one. Just today alone, since someone decided to toss this social media stick of dynamite into our laps I’ve already heard not ONE, but TWO prominent county figures (and one of them was a fellow commissioner – and no I’m not saying who they were) say “Just shut down the shelter and let it become private like other counties do. This isn’t something we should be doing anyway!”
The idea was simple. And no, this wasn’t MY idea and I’m not a fan of it, but when you demand solutions immediately rather than letting the process go full-circle, you might have to deal with answers you didn’t expect.
The suggesting was to just simply decide that OK, all these animal lovers know what to do, so we’ve got a deal for you. We’ll let you decide who wants to open a shelter and you take ALL the county funds we allocate to the shelter now and YOU run it however you see fit.
Stanly could keep paying the deputies to run calls and bring in animals, but you’re going to have to take every single one of them at every hour of the day and be 100% responsible for not turning anything down at all. Absolutely everything comes to you. You get state licensed and YOU handle the blowback when you realize that nothing runs perfectly 100% of the time.
That’s a legimate solution to the problem. Some would argue that government doesn’t need to be doing this service anyway. We’re not required to. The shelter is a service that’s provided as a good-will gesture, not something commissioners are required to use taxpayer funds for and we live in a REALLY conservative county. (For the record, that means cheap to a lot of folks around here.)
But everyone agrees with us:
The problem is, speaking honestly, all these Save the Kitty folks and the no-puppy-left-behind-gotta-save-them-all crowd aren’t ever going to be satisfied if even one animal is euthanized and they are fanatical enough that they’ll whip up a protest quicker than you can imagine. They swear up and down the EVERYONE agrees with them.
Well, everyone doesn’t. A majority doesn’t. A HUGE majority doesn’t. Yep. That’s right. I’m eternally grateful that we have some awesome, amazing, dedicated, big-hearted, kick-ass people out there that run rescues and that want to save everything they can. That’s amazing! It honest-to-God truly is and I’m thankful for them every day.
But…. they seem to hang out with, and socialize with a small bubble of people that feel just like they do and they have convinced themselves that everyone else really feels the same way.
Well, they don’t!
I’m not saying that to be mean. I’m just being honest. You need to really know the folks you’re appealing to if you’re going to and I haven’t seen any of these people attend a commissioners meeting or budget retreat, so I’m assuming they’re just getting this idea from somewhere, but it’s not the voters in Stanly County.
Most people truly couldn’t care less if there was a full-time crematorium running back in the woods somewhere as long as they didn’t know about it and didn’t have to deal with stray cats and dogs.
Feral Cats are a Problem
I’ve spoken to three different rescues in recent months and we were talking about cats each time. ALL THREE of them agreed with me when I said that Stanly County has a feral cat problem. It’s huge and it’s everywhere and we have absolutely no hope of solving it without doing something with a massive number of cats. Funny thing was, all three of them agreed with me but said “Yeah, but I’d never say that in public!”
Well, neither would I. Doesn’t make it any less true. Ask ANY veterinarian. Any of them. Seriously, call your vet and ask them. Dollar against a pickle they’ll say “Oh yeah, we have a huge feral cat problem” and they’ll go back to what they were doing. For post people, they just don’t care unless it becomes THEIR problem.
Let me drop some basic math on you for some serious critical thinking about feral cats in Stanly County.
- Cats LITERALLY breed like rabbits. They can go into heat every 2-3 weeks. (Dogs, by comparison go into heat about every six months.)
- Cats gestate (or make a kitten) in 2 months. (dogs are 2-2.5 months)
- Cats hit sexual maturity in 7-12 months, so within one year of being born they can already have 2 litters.
- An average feral cat can have up to 5 litters a year.
- Cats have on average 4 to 8 kittens per year, with a 20% mortality rate on average.
Knowing that, let’s do some third-grade math. Let’s assume that you have four feral female cats in one part of Stanly County. I know for a fact the crazy lady that lived beside my mother had at least three that she fed but swore weren’t her pets.
We’re talking about four female feral cats, not kept indoors, not kept away during heat cycles, etc.. just four normal female feral cats are our sample size here ok? Let’s say four litters a year, and let’s aim for the middle and say 6 kittens per litter, with an equal mix of male and female kittens, and assume a 20% mortality rate. That’s totally average fair math. Feel free to fact-check my assumptions at your leisure.
- 1 cat = X
- Litter =L assuming 6
- Per year = Y assuming four
1X times 6L, times 4Y = 24 kittens in a year per female cat times the mortality rate of 20% = 20 kittens survive, divided by 2 for half of them being female = 10 living female kittens. Ok, good. It comes out to a ten to one ratio of kittens per cat per year. That’s easy enough to extrapolate.
So four cats right now equals 40 more breeding females in one year. 40 breeding females equals 400 breeding females in 2 years. That equals 4 THOUSAND FREAKING FEMALE BREEDING FERAL CATS THE THIRD YEAR!
For perspective, Stanly County probably safely has over 1,000 feral female cats running around just in the municipalities right now today. That’s 10,000 new breeding cats next year. This isn’t me making math up. This is just basic elementary school math.
Where exactly would you suggest Stanly County APS direct its resources that would result in rehoming 10,000 cats per year? Do we give out a free kitten every time you vote? Hell, we don’t even get that many people to vote in elections in Stanly. That wouldn’t work.
It is legitimately a HUGE problem in Stanly that no one wants to talk about, but since we’re talking about APS and the shelter and never euthanizing anything, we might as well go full-potato and discuss it all.
Spay them all?
This is something that has always irked me on a purely biological level. Some of these people have the insane idea that the solution is to trap all these cats, spay them, and release them back into the wild.
Let me start with the obvious one here.
When we have an overpopulation of white-tailed deer, no one has ever in their life suggested, tranquilizing them, getting them spayed, and then letting them go again.
We’ve got too many feral hogs in Stanly County, and too many coyotes, right? Have you seen anyone trying to start a “Spay feral hogs” or “Save the Yote” campaigns? I haven’t, ever. I’ve literally never seen a single animal lover in my life suggest spaying and releasing ANYTHING but cats.
From a biological imperative perspective, this is the absolute most STUPID use of resources I’ve ever seen in my life. Every mammal on this earth has two biological imperatives.
That’s it. Humans, dogs, cats, wolves, lions, marmosets, rabbits, opossums, cattle, horses, mice, etc. Animals only have those two functions they are primordially driven to do without thought. They are driven to do these things above all else.
Why would people spend money to trap a feral animal, remove the most important biological function it was designed to do, and then let it back out in nature? You have literally removed half it’s reason for existing in the natural world, spent money do to it, and the only thing it can do now is be a predator for other animals or be prey for another animal. If we had too few of them, making them prey wouldn’t make sense. If we have too many of them, releasing them into the wild doesn’t make sense.
Our Building Sucks
The building APS operates out of sucks. There’s no better way to say it. Even if we had more staff, the building itself is a heap that should be torn down and replaced. Nothing about that facility is adequate for Stanly’s needs.
Now, let’s get real, a new building is not going to happen tomorrow either. If people would just have some patience, you DO have people like me and like the Sheriff that ARE doing all they can to work on improving things. I feel pretty certain I know the person that would write a check to pay for an entirely new shiny APS facility that would be fairly modernized instead of the slaughterhouse building we’ve got now.
Make no mistake, that building was totally designed as a place to hold animals until they could be euthanized. It wasn’t designed with animal welfare in mind. It wasn’t designed with FiFi and Tiffany in mind. It was designed to hold junkyard dogs until someone could have them put down.
But we make do with what we have because its all we’ve got. We’re currently looking at securing land for a new Sheriff’s office and 911 center – two other public safety buildings that are also woefully undersized and horribly designed for the modern-day purpose they’re serving. If we can get the 20 or so acres we’re trying for, we might have a nice chunk of land we could put a new SCAPS building on. I won’t be on the board to see that one across the finish line, but I was trying. Now, it’ll be up to whomever comes behind me to pick up that torch and run with it if they believe as I did when I served that office.
We’re currently looking at a property purchase, a 10 million dollar building, another 8 million dollar building, plus the FACC want their new Ag-Arena. That’s 5.6 million dollars they want funded this year. So we’re looking at what… 24 million dollars in capital outlay this year just in public safety and one ag-arena possibly? No, were not building a new APS facility… but the right people ARE trying to do the BEST they can with the resources they have at their disposal.
They’re also trying to work with the board of commissioners at the right time in the right way to have the best chance of getting that goal accomplished.
What happened this week – with all this self-important Facebook rallying against the commissioners (especially when 95% of everything quoted is totally incorrect) probably pushed those goals back significantly. I sincerely hope you get the result you want, but I’ve been working on this for a year. So has the Sheriff. So has Ashley. So have many others. And in throwing a fiction-filled gauntlet down at the board of commissioners, you might have done way more harm than good.
A word for the NEXT time…
I’m giving you a peek behind the curtain for the benefit of the public in general, and for others who might need to hear this next part. I’ll probably catch hell for this on Tuesday, but my job is to serve the public and sometimes the public just needs to be told things it doesn’t want to hear. That’s the job and I take it seriously.
I’m not the absolute best at my job but I know my board. I’ve served with some of them for four years now. Trust me when I say I know them better than 99% of you do. They do NOT respond well to threatening and this has come off as threatening. People have been rallying others to go to the board of commissioners (completely overstepping the Sheriff’s office entirely, which is definitely not cool at all). They’ve also encouraged people to email state inspectors, USDA officials, and even called the news to break a story. (Yes, I know who you were. Journalistic secrecy isn’t that hard to crack when you know people).
I used to have the same mindset some of these folks do when I first took office. Set the world on fire and watch it burn because my cause is righteous and I will prevail!!!! Bwah ha ha ha ha ha… NOT.
This board, as I feel many others do, responds MUCH better to private individual conversation and dialogue amongst adults than it does viral smackdowns. The people behind this campaign to intimidate the board didn’t think things through very well.
Four of your commissioners are lame ducks that expire this year. Threats and tantrums will only make some of them defy you just because they can. All they have to do is say no. They aren’t required to give you a reason. They don’t even have to say a WORD except “Nay.” There’s nothing you can do about it. They’re not running for re-election. They’re voting the will of the people they represent and nothing you can do can argue against that.
I’m a lame duck that’s ON YOUR SIDE and you’ve even made it difficult for me to support you after you basically burned the last year’s worth of hard work to the ground in three days time.
There was a way to handle this. And everyone involved handled it wrong.
No one called Jeff and asked for a meeting about this. No one called Ashley and asked for a meeting about this. No one called the commissioners to ask them individually how they felt, find out if they even KNEW of these concerns. They just lobbed a molotov over the walls and want to watch it burn.
Well, I hope you get the result you want. Personally, I think you’ve set back this progress another 6 to 9 months.
I’m not saying any of this to be mean to anyone. I REALLY agree with most of the changes folks want. There is just a lot of conversations that have to happen that you don’t appear to even acknowledge or understand and rushing those conversations to take place between now and Tuesday is more likely to backfire than succeed. I sincerely hope I’m wrong.
Commissioner (for 60 more days or so)
Tommy, well said. To be honest, I don’t think you could’ve explained it any better. Most folks seem to have these preconceived notions of how things are, and have no clue the realities of, in this case, what it really takes to operate a shelter (or most agencies, for that matter). Hopefully folks will read this and understand the realities, and even spur some to get involved and help improve the situation.
Tommy, despite all of this outlined in your reponse – a well thought out reply and information that must have taken a great deal of your time, thank you – the fact that Jana Aviles, who turned this shelter around by working mega hours every week, has resigned because there is not enough staffing support to physically get the job done – IS the issue here. How are the elected officials we put in office going to address that? Better yet, how are they going to fix it? Replacing Jana IS NOT addressing the problem. What is the plan to hire another staff person or two…
You bring up a good point. Let me answer in the most honest way I know how.
The Commissioners don’t decide to upgrade personnel at a whim. They do so at the request of a department head. In this case, the Sheriff. When, if, Sheriff Crisco comes and makes a request, the commissioners WILL discuss it. Usually the department head and the county manager discuss it first. The county manager knows his commissioners well. It’s part of his job. It’s also part of his job to know what they will and won’t support. Jeff has talked to Andy. I’ve talked to Andy. Jeff’s talked to me as well. Collectively, we have met maybe a dozen times over this issue throughout the last year.
Once Sheriff Crisco feels he has his ducks in a row and he’s developed a plan, he’ll come to the board and ask if he chooses.
That’s NOT the commissioners’ job to just arbitrarily do. I hope that makes sense. Just because an employee wants more help doesn’t mean we convene the board immediately and just agree to throw money at a problem.
EVERY SINGLE DEPARTMENT in Stanly County government wants more personnel. ALL of them have valid reasons for wanting them. Dolly Clayton has been asking for SIX PEOPLE to help with social services for the past four years, year after year after year. This year she finally got 3.
Every single decision to add someone to the county payroll adds dollars to the budget and takes money from taxpayers to achieve. It’s not that no one wants to hire people. It’s that the board, county management, and the department heads themselves are expected to have achieved every bit of efficiency possible BEFORE resorting to just paying more people.
I’m not against hiring another person. I’ve outlined some ideas above that I think would further that goal. It might could even be done through fees charged to municipalities. But none of that is a whimsical decision and none of it is going to be made because one person throws a fit about it. That’s just not how government should work, and personally I’m glad of that.
I’ll use the IRS as an example between conservative and whimsical expenditures. Everyone knows the IRS is overworked. Administrations have been trying to find ways to make them more efficient for years. Our current president just decided to hire 87.000 more of them instead. That’s coming at your expense, and at my expense. In my opinion, 87,000 of ANYTHING is ridiculous to hire. But it’s the same principle at play as what I think we have here at the local level.
Will the board approve a request to hire more personnel? Possibly. I personally like the idea of doing away with the shelter manager, using that pay plus a little bit more, and splitting that into TWO people’s salaries. Double the manpower without double the price-tag. Is that the right idea? I have absolutely no idea… it’s just one of many.
I hope I didn’t ramble too long in my answer. Thanks for your comment!
Thanks, Mr Jordan for all the time you put in to research this. I apologize for believing the first info that came through without fact checking
Ma’am, it happens all the time. You have nothing to apologize for. I just appreciate you taking the time to read another side of the argument and taking the time to understand that there’s more to it than just tossing money at the problem as a first-tier solution.