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McDowell County Commissioners hear report about animal services
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McDowell County Commissioners hear report about animal services

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During 2021, McDowell County’s Animal Services continued making improvements with more dogs and cats being adopted and a low number of them being euthanized.

That was the message heard by the McDowell County Commissioners during their regular meeting on Monday. The McDowell County Commissioners held the first meeting of 2022 in the conference room of the Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center.

Public Services Director Terry DePoyster and Animal Services Manager Brittany Wright gave a report to the commissioners about the progress made during 2021. Several years of enhancements at the county’s shelter are starting to pay off in the form of continued high numbers of adoptions and reduced numbers of euthanasia, they said.

During 2021, the shelter took in 1,154 animals. Of those, 1,068 were adopted or returned to their owners. A total of 43 animals were euthanized. These animals that were put down are typically too sick or aggressive to be adopted.

In 2020, the shelter took in 910 animals and of those, 776 were adopted and 134 were returned to their owners. A total of 35 were put down in 2020.

In 2019, 85 animals were euthanized at the shelter. In 2018, 48 were euthanized and 109 were euthanized in 2017. For comparison, 1,770 animals were euthanized in 2010, according to county officials.

Wright said spay/neuter is the most important component in reducing the number of animals at the shelter. Pet-friendly housing is another component that can help reduce the number of animals in the shelter.

“The need for shelter expansion continues, especially a cat isolation to help reduce the spread of contagious disease, thus reducing the amount of time a cat will stay in the shelter,” said Wright to the commissioners. “Overall, we need more space for dogs and cats.”

In her presentation, Wright asked the commissioners for permission to increase the adoption fee for dogs and cats, which is now $65. That fee covers the heartworm test, vaccination for distemper, parvo, rabies and Bordetella. “We also start each dog on a flea prevention and heartworm preventative if heartworm negative. We send records of all of this with each adopter.”

Wright asked for the adoption fee to be increased to $100. The commissioners didn’t take action on her request but agreed to consider it again at a future meeting in order to get more information first.

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The commissioners also heard a presentation from Susan Menard and Joy Harklerode with the Mercy Fund Animal Rescue about the TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) program. This program involves trapping feral cats (that cannot be adopted) and having them spayed or neutered and then returning them to their home territory. A total of 1,919 cats have been altered since the program began in April 2009.

Menard and Harklerode asked the commissioners to take a fresh look at the county’s animal ordinances and see if changes can be made. They agreed to revisit the matter during a workshop meeting.

In other business, the McDowell County Board of Commissioners:

Presented a resolution of appreciation to local law enforcement. The commissioners read the resolution and presented a copy to Sheriff Ricky Buchanan and some of his deputies.

Presented a resolution of appreciation to Ned Fowler, who was the EMS regional liaison with Mission Hospital until his retirement at the end of 2021. Fowler provided key support to McDowell EMS and its staff, said Emergency Services Director William Kehler.

Heard a report from Kehler about the COVID-19 situation in McDowell County. The McDowell County Health Department reported Monday that 169 additional McDowell County residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Kehler said Monday was a “record day for McDowell County” and there is a significant amount of community transmission occurring. The 14-day positivity rate on Monday was 20.4%. After hearing from Kehler, the commissioners agreed to continue the face mask policy for county employees until the next regular meeting on Feb. 14. Under the policy, county employees must wear a face mask when they are dealing with the public. A mask doesn’t have to be worn when an employee is alone in an office or vehicle. During Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Brenda Vaughn was the only member of the board wearing a face mask.

Heard a report from Kehler about the state funding that is available for property owners who suffered damage during Tropical Storm Fred and the flooding on Oct. 7.

Was introduced to Anna Lee, the new human resources director for the county.

Approved a new plat review process for surveyors and others who are submitting maps. The process lays out an expectation to the submitter on what is required and how long the process might take.

Didn’t take action on the proposed operating procedures for the new McDowell County Shooting Range, as submitted by Recreation Director Chad Marsh. The board will vote on it at a future meeting.

Heard updates about the ongoing building projects. The upper level of the new North Main Street office is nearing the point of paint and carpeting. The lower level is a few months behind that point. The new EMS headquarters is entering its final stretch. The contractor is still awaiting materials for the garage doors as well as some roofing for the cupola in the front. The commissioners talked about what to do with the old EMS station on South Garden Street. They wanted to know if some other county agency might want to use it before making the decision to demolish it and make that property into a parking lot. The commissioners also discussed having the February meeting in the boardroom of the County Administration Building as a way to say “farewell” to the space where so many meetings have been held since 1976.

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