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State gives Guilford County Animal Shelter warning for mistreatment of animals

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Director of the Animal Welfare Section (AWS) of the Veterinary Division of the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services wrote a letter to the Guilford County Deputy Manager about a series of violations found with the Guilford County Animal Shelter after investigating a complaint.

The shelter has a history. The shelter’s previous operator, United Animal Coalition, faced allegations of animal cruelty and criminal charges for neglecting animals. Guilford County stepped in after the charges and took over the operation.

The Guilford County Animal Shelter passed its last formal inspection with the Animal Welfare Section on March 16. According to the inspection report, it was "contingently approved being that progress is being made on the maintenance issues. The approval of the next follow up inspection will be based on the continuation of progress with the maintenance issues and a significant improvement in the control of infections diseases among cats and dogs."

However, the Animal Welfare Section noted the shelter still needed to address several issues. The report shows the shelter kept animals being treated for communicable diseases in the same areas of the general population of animals, and the shelter failed to notify the state that it had fired a Certified Euthanasia Technician.

The report went on to say that "overall cleanliness has improved throughout the facility."

Less than a month later, the state received a complaint that resulted in the letter from the state. Brian Long, a representative with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said it was not connected to the March 16 inspection. Long said the Animal Welfare Section "received the complaint the first week of April and conducted the investigation soon after."

The letter cites a number of problems with animals care, violating the NC Animal Welfare Act. An investigation including a visit to the shelter, interviews with staff and a review of records.

AWS says there were “inadequacies of documentation” in all 17 medical records it reviewed. The agency also says “3 of the 17 animals did not receive the required rabies vaccination within 15 days of intake,” in the letter.

The letter questioned the “adequacy of veterinary care and staff monitoring” for one dog with a fractured femur. During the site visit, two other animals had “easily visible medical conditions” that AWS felt were not receiving adequate care or monitoring.
AWS recommends the shelter gives out timely rabies vaccinations and consults with other NC shelters to adopt a better system of reporting and monitoring veterinary care.

The agency also filed a complaint against the licensed veterinarian at the shelter with N.C. Board of Veterinary Medicine for “serious concerns about the adequacy of veterinary care.” The director of AWS also notified the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office.

A representative with the N.C. Board of Veterinary Medicine said the complaint will become public record after the board's investigation committee looks into the matter and presents its results to the board. A representative with the board said that process could take four to six months.

AWS Director Patricia Norris closes the letter saying if Guilford County Animal Shelter continues to mistreat animals in this way, it could result in “disciplinary action against the facility’s license,” or civil fines of up to $5,000 per violation.

The Guilford County Animal Shelter let go of eight employees earlier this year, who told FOX8 the culture of animal cruelty and neglect had not changed since the county takeover.

Animal Services Director Drew Brinkley sent FOX8 the following statement:

“We have received the findings noted by the Department of Agriculture’s Animal Welfare Section and are taking those concerns seriously. We are committed to our responsibility of providing care to the animals in the shelter’s custody and we have immediately begun taking steps to ensure we address circumstances that led to deficient shelter records and medical care so we do not have further recurrences of this kind.”

FOX8 talked to Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad on the phone. He said he thinks the shelter is moving overall in the right direction and will continue to make improvements to meet state standards.

The Guilford County Animal Shelter has made progress in getting its staff to full capacity after layoffs two months ago. There are only nine vacancies for the shelter's 29 slots and they expect to have all the job opportunities at least offered by the end of the week.