The Henderson County
Board of Commissioners met for a special called meeting at in the Commissioners' Conference Room
Those present were: Chairman Bill Moyer, Vice-Chairman
Also present were: Communications
Present from the State Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Veterinary Division:
Mary Ann McBride,
David T. Marshall, DVM, State Veterinarian, Director of Diagnostic Laboratory System
CALL TO ORDER/WELCOME
Chairman Moyer called the meeting to order and welcomed all in attendance, stating that he purpose of the meeting was for the Board to consider a request from the State for Henderson County to take possession of the animals currently housed at All Creatures Great and Small. He explained that there would be no public comment. He issued a special thank you on behalf of the Board to all the groups and individuals who have stepped up and adopted animals. His hope for the outcome of this meeting is for all the animals to be adopted out. Realistically though we have to move forward with a contingency plan just in case that plan doesn’t work.
Chairman Moyer explained
that when the State contacted
REQUEST FROM NC DEPARTMENT OF
Dr. McBride echoed Chairman Moyer’s comments, stating that everyone hopes that adoption of all the animals from that facility is the resolution of this situation. She stated that she has practiced veterinary medicine for almost 20 years with a firm background in veterinary medicine.
Dr. McBride stated their
current status with their negotiations with All Creatures Great and Small – the
planning operations are in place for the closure of All Creatures Great and
Small. It is an endeavor called
“Operation Move Out”. She stated they
also will make a request for
Dr. McBride started with
October 2006 although there is a much longer history with All Creatures Great
and Small. Settlement agreement was signed in October 2006 when All Creatures
Great and Small agreed to come into compliance with the Animal Welfare Act. The
North Carolina Department of Agriculture agreed to inspect, provide assistance
and guidance for coming into compliance with the Animal Welfare Act and also to
repeat the inspections to give them the opportunity to make progress and pass
and be licensed as a facility in
The State consent order incorporated
the consent order that the City of
Dr. McBride stated that due to the on-going inability to comply with the consent order, NCDA recommended that the State amend the consent order and in that amended consent order that is now back in All Creatures’ attorney’s hands, the State has requested the release of all of the animals on their property by January 31, 2008 to the State’s designee. All Creatures has also verbally agreed to allow outside humane organizations to operate that facility for the month of February in an attempt to ameliorate some of the egregious violations of the Animal Welfare Act and to allow adoption of all remaining animals on that property. The goals for the federal operation are as follows:
· improve daily care of animals including husbandry and veterinary care, which is urgently needed
· evaluate animals and make available for adoption any animals that can be adopted
The consent order is
still in effect. The facility still must
be empty of animals by March 14. Since they have no where to take these animals
Dr. McBride stated that
they had developed a program called “Operation Move Out” which is a consortium
approach and will allow the stakeholders that they have worked with in the past
to form a consortium to facilitate the goal of shutting down the current
facility and adopting out all adoptable animals. She referred to the list of
entities that they are in continual communication with as they try to bring
this program together: United Animal Nations, Humane Society of the United
States, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Best Friends, American Humane Association,
PetSmart Charities, ASPCA, many local humane/rescue groups, several NC county
animal control offices, NCSU CVM and more. There are seven counties with Animal
Control Offices offering their help to solve the situation here as well as the
Dr. McBride stated that
Operation Move Out is a huge undertaking. Any time you’re dealing with this
many animals it’s not an easy proposition. She referred to the graph of
Operation Move Out. She stated that the graph is a working draft. There are still a number of issues that need
to be resolved in order to put this plan in motion. She stated that the consent
order designates 350 animals to be released and they are currently in that phase
(Phase I). Orange County Animal Control
is on the property today adopting cats to take back to
The second step of the
operation is where Dr. McBride needs
Dr. McBride mentioned
possible activities that they hope to engage during the occupation. They intend
to have the
Dr. McBride stated that
they intend to do their very best to make sure that this is portrayed as a
positive event for every party involved.
Contrary to what was printed in the paper, the State would certainly
like very much to have a cooperative relationship with the county. There has been a good relationship so far and
they wish to continue that relationship. “This is a win situation for everybody
if we keep it focused on the animals which is the entire problem we’re dealing
with.” Dr. McBride addressed financial management stating that the current
intent is not to cost the county any additional funds other than Selena and Mr.
Wyatt and others who much engage in getting the agreement made with the
State. They are not asking for county
shelter support. They would welcome it but are not asking for county shelter
support because they understand that the county shelter, like many in the
state, is overwhelmed already with the current situations. There should be no cost to the county other
than staff time committed to this. They have commitments from two of the
National Humane Organizations that have made significant financial
contributions and are ready to put that money into North Carolina State Animal
Response Teams 501 C-3 account which is the account that would be used by the
State should they have a disaster. The Humane Organizations understand that
this is a disaster situation that we are in at this time. The
Dr. McBride stated that
there are two places where she has asked for specific county support. One – she is asking the
In conclusion Dr.
McBride stated they request the county be a partner in Operation Move Out. They
ask that the county take legal ownership of surrendered animals in a temporary
capacity, in name only, with that responsibility to expire on February 29
because Dr. McBride has full confidence that all the animals will be removed
from that facility by that time. She
thinks we will have far more adopters than we do adoptees. That is a typical situation when you have
this kind of situation with the media.
“It’s a status symbol to have a Katrina dog now… I will give you my
word, the Commissioner says they are all coming home with me if we do not
resolve this by February 29 and I promise my homeowners association will not
allow me to have this many animals.” She requests law enforcement, putting that
into the county request because she wasn’t certain as to how the relationship
Commissioner Young stated that he is starting his sixth year as Commissioner and before that he served three years on the Hendersonville Zoning Board of Adjustment. He stated that this came before the Board of Adjustment while he was a member, several times. The City Board of Adjustment said that All Creatures must operate within the State guidelines, must keep a permit from the State Veterinarian’s Association. That decision got appealed to Superior Court by their attorney. Superior Court overruled the Zoning Board’s decision. “Why has this situation been allowed to fester this long and nothing done about it?”
Dr. McBride stated that
review of the Statutes that they operate under will show that they have no
ability to close the facility directly per any of the General Statutes. Their
only remedy in the current Statutes in place currently is to levy a $5,000
civil penalty. The first thing All Creatures did was appeal that.
Commissioner McGrady stated that from the presentation it doesn’t appear to him that there is any reason why the county ought not to step into this role. Aside from the States inability to place these animals, what are the other downside risks to the county in doing what the State is asking the county to do?
Dr. McBride stated that
she doesn’t see any downside risks of the county stepping up to fulfill that
role. She felt that the
Chairman Moyer answered
that All Creatures over the years has done a great job of taking in the dogs
and cats that most other places would not want.
There are a lot of them that are not adoptable. We don’t know the
percentage of unadoptable animals. The
State is taking a look at that. They are going to bring in behaviorists and see
which animals are adoptable based on behavior and health. We don’t know what
that bottom line figure will be. These groups will come in and take out the
animals that they want but it is possible
Commissioner McGrady stated that the reason for the question was to put that issue on the table, to be transparent and explicit about what the issue is.
Commissioner Young told Dr. McBride that she needed to explain to the public that there is this possibility that a lot of the animals would be put down and “we’re not the bad guys.”
Dr. McBride stated that she is not asking the Commissioners to assume the role of the being the bad guy in this situation. The bad guys are the ones that put the animals in the situation that they’re in. The State did not put the animals in this situation and the County did not put the animals in this situation. “This is more than any county could be expected to resolve on their own. Your county has done a tremendous job in trying to resolve this issue. It’s an overwhelming issue. If you think about 300 cats in airline crates stacked, that never get out of the crate, never have a chance to stretch, then you understand where the problems are in this situation. Is it fair to the animals for them to be confined in a crate to go cage crazy? Is that an acceptable option? It’s not an acceptable option to me as a Veterinarian nor is it an acceptable option to me as a State employee but my Veterinary heart rules so I will explain to the public that there will be animals that will have to be euthanized because they are so aggressive that we can’t even handle the animals. I have asked other county animal control will you help us with these animals and they have said yes because they handle these bad dogs every day, not these specific ones, but bad dogs just like them every day. I physically can’t handle some of these big dogs. I’m not capable of doing it and if I can’t handle a dog how can I in good conscious recommend that those animals be adopted. There have been significant numbers of bite injuries at the facility. She has not checked the records at the Health Department. They have endured three in just the seven weeks that they have been on the property, three significant dog bites. One was to a member of the public. Minors have been allowed to adopt pit bulls. She cannot phantom how that could happen. She asked for the county’s support in resolving this. There are right ways and wrong ways to shelter animals. Look to the Animal Welfare Act and that is the minimum standard that the State finds acceptable. For at least 5 years All Creatures has never come into compliance with minimum acceptable standards.
Chairman Moyer said that we have to admit that there is the potential for this problem at the end of the time. Dr. McBride stated that is not a downside for the county. She stated that the State will take full ownership of those animals on February 29 if there are animals that remain. “I will absolve the county of that responsibility because I am committed to solving this problem and I want to make sure you understand that because I truly mean that, I have … as the Commissioner said my jobs on the line to solve this and I intend to solve it and I intend to make it fair to the county and to the State and you have my word that if the animals are not off the property we will be responsible for them.”
Commissioner Young stated that we want to do what’s right for the animals first of all and to help the State solve this problem as well.
Commissioner McGrady said he was asked today by a citizen why the county needs to take legal ownership now as opposed to the state taking it now rather than after February 29, what’s the answer?
Dr. McBride stated that
the State does not have animal control authority. They do not have sheltering
capacity, that’s typically handled at the county level. The state is not asking
the county to shelter these animals but only asking the county to accept
surrendered animals as the county does every day on paper, surrender them to the
State. The State only needs the county
to take the animals on paper and commit to the State that the County will allow
the State to adopt the animals out. “I guarantee you that the State will not
take possession of any of these animals.
It will come to my house. That’s clear because as you understand, I
don’t know how it works in
Chairman Moyer assured the public that the emphasis from the State and from the County is to adopt everything out and to have the best procedure and adopt them out in the best possible way. We have to look at the risks and the exposure so we don’t expose our County or the State. What we’re trying to agree to do is adopt these animals out and make sure the animals find good homes wherever possible.
Commissioner Messer questioned what the number is of unadoptable animals at the shelter today?
Dr. McBride stated that she would have to render a very genetic opinion because she is not a behaviorist. Those animals are in such a situation that it is really unfair to even try to do a behavioral assessment in that situation. When you have 200 dogs all barking and shrieking and carrying on because you’re talking to one dog, that dog is not going to behave as he would at home. “Put my German Shepherd in that situation and he’s gonna be a difficult dog too because that’s the ‘pack mentality’. You’re asking me something I really can’t give you an honest answer on and I apologize, I can’t give you an honest answer as to how many are adoptable. As far as the cats go, I would say that almost, I can make a blanket statement that all of the cats are adoptable. Now some of them have some health issues that anyone adopting those cats needs to be aware of but there are no temperament problems with cats at the facility. That I can already assure you cause I’ve handled the cats. The dogs are a different story. You’ve got 80 pound rowdy boys in a high density situation, they’re not gonna behave as they would outside the facility… I’m sorry to not give you a straight answer.”
Dr. McBride explained that Tuft’s University Veterinary College has a schooling system in place, a behavioral assessment for animals housed in situations such as these, how to best assess those animals and determine their adoptability. A Veterinary College has agreed to spearhead the behavioral assessments to coordinate with behaviors from the ASPCA and across the company to come in and in approximately a 10 day period and assess all those dogs, understanding it’s not going to be as good an assessment as if they were here or somewhere quiet but to the best of their ability. They are the experts and that’s who we want to rely on to give a good opinion. “The last thing any of us want to do is to adopt a dangerous dog to a family. That would be the worst situation. The other side of that situation is that the rest of the good dogs will get a fair assessment and will get a good home. I can assure you of that.”
Chairman Moyer explained that what he thinks needs to happen by the end of this meeting if it’s the Board’s pleasure, is authorization to have staff continue to work with the State to develop an agreement along the lines of which has been discussed today. There are still some issues that need to be resolved but the State is working with the Staff, Selena, and Sarah. He hopes by the end of the day, that we’re in a position to say yes we want to continue to work towards having an agreement with the State to help resolve this issue. “We will not be able to button down every issue at this time but I want the Board to be comfortable that we’re ready to move forward in this direction or not and to give staff advice in that regard. That’s where I’m trying to get.”
Commissioner Williams asked what law enforcement might be needed? Do we have the resources available?
Chairman Moyer remembered that Dr. McBride had said in her comments that if was required, we certainly don’t foresee it or want that to happen but if it required full time security, the State would recognize that and that would be dealt with.
Dr. McBride said absolutely, the safety of all involved is paramount and whatever measures they need to take, they will. Security is a significant concern for all parties involved and the State is prepared to do whatever is necessary.
Commissioner Messer said that the Commissioners had received e-mails, phone calls, personal conversations with people about this problem on-going. He has been on this Board almost seven and half years. He said that there are two sides to the story. All Creatures did a tremendous job at times by taking care of animals that no one else wanted. He thinks that the County needs to work with the State and hopes that the number of animals left with be a minimum.
Commissioner McGrady made a motion based on the presentation received, to authorize staff to continue with negotiations moving towards an agreement which would provide quick legal ownership of the animals at All Creatures with the county consistent with the discussion today and the presentation.
Following additional discussion, A vote was taken. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Chairman Moyer said there are some additional obstacles but hopefully we can work through all them and if necessary at the appropriate time a full agreement will be brought back to the Board for ratification and approval. The State would like to be in a position to wrap this up by the end of this month.
Commissioner McGrady made the motion to adjourn the meeting at All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Elizabeth W. Corn, Clerk to the Board William L. Moyer, Chairman