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Some rescue organizations frustrated with Guilford County Animal Shelter operation

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Sharon Gray is very passionate about what she does, running the Animal Rescue and Foster Program in Greensboro. They mainly focus on rescuing kittens and puppies. When she saw a photo of a kitten with a deformed leg on her Facebook feed, she immediately wanted to help. The kitten was at the Guilford County Animal Shelter.

"Why let that animal sit in a cage, taking up space, using the county's money to feed it, to take care of it, why do that when you could give it to a rescue?" Gray asked.

Gray filled out paperwork with the county to take it and another kitten off their hands, but was eventually turned away. The shelter made the decision, it wanted to try and adopt it out themselves.

"It's a little unfair I think to play on people's hearts that way," Gray said.

Gray argues rescues could help with intake, lower kill rates and help the county save money. When the United Animal Coalition ran the shelter, before it lost it's license for charges of animal cruelty, rescues weren't allowed to push animals away from the shelter. When Guilford County took over two years ago, the door was opened, but several rescue organizations are critical of how the lack of outreach.

The euthanasia rate at the Guilford shelter is much higher than other North Carolina shelters that are comparable in size. In June of this year, the shelter took in 479 cats and euthanized 302. That's a rate of 63 percent, compared to Mecklenburg (27 percent) and Wake (26 percent) during that month. In July, Guilford's adoption rates went through the roof (60 percent for dogs and 51 percent for cats) but the shelter still had a euthanasia rate of 41 percent for cats.

"Animals are languishing in the shelter for months and months and we have people who are willing to help and get them online," said Amy Rizzolla, with Triad Independent Cat Rescue.

Rizzolla says she tried to help the shelter with their online marketing for animals, but never heard back. Gray says she and other rescues try to get an animal out but have to wait days if not weeks to do so due to lack of communication or information.

Not all rescues feel this way about the shelter.

"Well we get along fine with them," said Brenda Overman, president of SPCA of the Triad. She also is an Animal Advisory Board Member for the county. "I express what I need when I go in. I try to be courteous to the staff and they're courteous to me."

Justin Conrad, one of the county commissioners overseeing shelter operations, says they're appreciative of rescues who are trying to work with the shelter, and that every organization needs to work on communications. He says the relationship between the shelter and rescue organizations is a two way street, but their number one focus right now is finding a new director for the shelter, after former director Drew Brinkley resigned.

Conrad says they've narrowed their search down to five candidates, and are currently interviewing them. He believes their priorities in the right candidate are experience, but also their outreach and work record with their respective communities.

"It needs to be run by someone who has worked with and is educated about animals," Gray said.

The county also has six other positions open at the shelter, making seven vacancies for an operation that should employ 29 people.