DOBSON — “They’re trying to make us look like we want to put down animals,” Surry County Health and Nutrition Center director Samantha Ange said plaintively. “And that’s just not true.”
Ange’s department oversees operations of the Surry County Animal Shelter, which has come under fire from some county residents recently amid allegations that shelter is not trying to get animals adopted.
For Ange, the issue has less to do with wanting to put animals up for adoption and more to do with the type of animals taken in by the shelter.
Ange pointed to this year’s list of animal control complaints. This year, the shelter has responded to 2,049 complaints including 377 stray animals, 150 animals listed as “aggressive,” 38 “dangerous” animals, 77 bites, 41 cases of possible rabies and 13 animals who have been abused.
The end result, Ange says, is often animals unfit for adoption.
“These are the types of animals we’re taking in, and when we take in these kind of animals they’re simply not going to be adoptable,” she said, noting that animals are tested to see if they’re safe for adoption.
“We don’t want to let a family take an animal that might hurt children or other pets,” she said.
The only option, which Ange called a “necessary evil,” is euthanasia.
Animal Shelter Director Gary Brown agreed, noting that it isn’t a part of the job that either he or his staff enjoys.
“We’re having to deal with reality here,” Brown said. “I’ve had staff literally crying that they have to do that. We don’t like it, but it’s sometimes necessary due to the condition of the animals we get.”
“When we get injured, neglected animals, and that’s not uncommon at all, and they’re suffering and they’re not going to get better, if we didn’t euthanize these animals they’ll just continue to suffer,” Ange added.
Both Ange and Brown agree that none of the staff at the shelter like the thought of putting animals down.
The shelter employs a trained veterinary technician who decides whether animals taken into the shelter are adoptable or need to be put down, they said.
“He absolutely loves animals and has a big heart for animals,” Ange said. “Every member of the staff we have working down there are animal lovers and have a number of pets themselves. We don’t enjoy euthanizing animals but we do it because those are the types of animals we get in.”
She said that a high percentage of animals are being euthanized, but not at any higher rate than other shelters in the country.
“Is it different than any other shelter?” She asked rhetorically. “No. The problem is that the adoptable pets we get are few and far between.”
Seeking Outside Help
Both Ange and Brown said that they work closely with volunteers in hopes of expanding the number of animals adopted out of the county center.
“(Brown) works daily with legitimate groups who work with us to help adopt out pets, and we’ve done that for quite some time,” Ange said.
The issue is often training.
“There is a lot of training involved,” Ange said. “A person may love animals but may not have worked with one who’s been abused. We don’t want our volunteers to get hurt, or to hurt the animals.”
Ange and Brown both agreed that anyone who wants can visit the shelter and fill out a volunteer application.
“If they have a real desire to help, they’re certainly welcome to volunteer,” Ange said. “We’ll put them through the training.”
The big thing, she added, is that all animals at the shelter are treated humanely.
“We don’t want them suffering in any way,” Ange said. “Our staff believes in that.”
Both Ange and Brown were adamant when asked whether animals are being abused or neglected at the county shelter.
“Absolutely not,” They answered with one voice.
“If I found out that any of that was going on that person would be terminated immediately,” Ange said.
A recent inspection, which found one animal with a bleeding tail and looking “emaciated,” was less than met the eye, according to Brown.
“That animal came to us that way. Sick, bleeding and injured,” Brown said. “It was seen by our vet shortly after arrival and had been taken care of according to the vet’s guidelines.”
As the animal’s condition improved, the tail started wagging.
“It was getting proper care and the morning that the inspector arrived it wagged it’s tail and the bandage was wagged off,” Brown said. “That’s what happened. That animal was thin because his breed is thin.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.