Guest Editorial: Fairfield Animal Shelter Intake is Like a Dungeon, Temps in 90s

June 27, 2022 address to Fairfield County Council by Samira Yaghi, Fairfield Animal Shelter Volunteer Rescue Coordinator

I come before you with a desperate plea for the animals.

I’ve spent the last five plus years putting a band-aid on the needs for our shelter animals. And by band aid,  I mean getting them out to rescues, fosters, and adopters to always make space for new  intakes; fundraising for their medical needs through social media and events.

But those band aids are no longer sticking.

We have reached very dangerous times with an unprecedented and overwhelming crisis –  influx of dogs like we’ve never seen before.

For five plus years, we have dreamed of a new facility. Not a posh facility, but an adequate holding place that is safe, clean, humane – that allows the animals proper indoor outdoor time, fresh air, adequate heating and cooling.

We dream of a shelter that does not look and feel like a dungeon such as does our intake building. Solitary confinement is what that building feels like. We dream of a shelter where animals do not have to be housed in flimsy 10 by 10 pens outside that are poorly put together and not stable from any wind blowing at them causing them to fly away, which happened just a few weeks ago.

We dream of proper outdoor housing with proper shade and protection from the elements. We dream of not stacking overcrowded animals in crates throughout the building.

What does that say about this county? What does it say about our level of care and compassion? It’s embarrassing, but more importantly, it’s heartbreaking. Not only to me, but to everyone that walks through that shelter and witnesses it.

We have a responsibility, a duty to provide, at a minimum, the basics. Some of those basics are not even met here in Fairfield. When the temps in a building that houses animals is between 85 and 90 degrees in the dead heat of the summer, it is disturbing.

Some of our animals are housed in the heat outside at high risk of heat strokes.

Our shelter doesn’t even have a proper refrigerator for staff and volunteers, nor a break room, or a table for someone to eat their lunch. We don’t have a meeting room or a corner to sit and discuss with prospective adopters or foster people.

This council has a fundamental duty and responsibility to provide adequate and humane living conditions for these animals, especially when housing long term. You have a responsibility to provide the care, the medical, the nutrition, and enrichment to help maintain these animals’ well being physically and mentally. But we don’t even have the level of staff needed to properly care for the number of animals the shelter houses.

I ask, I beg of you all, to please start prioritizing the shelter in more financial ways and provide more support. These animals matter. They are your responsibility. This is your backyard, your county animals and your community..

Let’s do better, Fairfield.


  1. Ashley Andersen says

    I’m from Charleston, SC. I kept seeing pleas for animals in what looked like a dilapidated, dark prison cell. I chose to begin fundraising for a shelter 3 hours from my home because the big shelters, with tons of adoptions and donations in my area all of a sudden didn’t seem so terrible. I took a day off of work and made my way to Fairfield. As soon as I got out of my vehicle I could hear their barks. I looked at my mom and said “there’s no way this many animals fit inside this building.” We started unpacking the donations with Samira and walked inside to make our rounds. As soon as you walk through the front doors there are animals in crates on top of each other. While this might not sound like a big deal to you, I assure you it is. I’ve been to countless shelters and I’ve NEVER seen dogs overflowing all the way to the front door, living, not being held temporarily but living in metal crates. As soon as you walk in you can smell urine. Now, before you start throwing blame at the staff because “that’s their responsibility” keep in mind what it takes to care for over 75 dogs and 150 cats. I was blown away when I found out 3-4 people take care of these animals. There should be no less that 8-10 people there. A shelter that size, with that many animals has over 10 employees here in Charleston. As we continued our tour we saw some of the sweetest animals just begging for attention. Notice me. Pet me. We had toys and treats but a large number of the animals just wanted to be touched. They wanted that human contact that all dogs and cats want. The main building was warm, noisy and dark. Please keep in mind it was warm when I was there in late September. I can only imagine what it’s like in August. There are sick kittens in cages, animal who have been spayed or neutered that need to be monitored, animals who need their cages cleaned, need to be fed. After visiting the main building, the trailers stacked to the ceiling with cats and the dogs living outside I had the pleasure of being taken to “the dungeon.” A concrete building, with the tiniest vent sized windows that looked like it was abandoned 50 years ago. You walk in and are almost deafened by the barks. You see dogs curled up in balls at the back of their runs, dogs jumping up and down, spinning in circles like they’ve gone insane. They have kennel stress, they’re deteriorating. Do any of you have pets? Imagine your animal there. Never getting to relax, laying on concrete, surrounded by constant barking in a jail cell 24 hours a day with little interaction for months and for some YEARS. This is a problem. I’m sure there are some of you with the but they’re just animals mentality. That think it’s okay to leave dogs tethered to trees, that think they don’t need shelter, water left for them outside on 95 degree days, that think the cute puppies your backyard breeders sell aren’t a problem. Look at your shelter, IT’S A PROBLEM. Your shelter makes money for the county. It makes money even though it’s dilapidated, gets little foot traffic, is understaffed and bursting at the seems with animals. THANK GOD for the people like us that donate funds, supplies and our time. It’s time for YOU to help them. A shelter shouldn’t have to depend on people hours away in different towns and counties. If you truly put in the time and money there’s no way the shelter wouldn’t continue to be profitable. Think of how much foot traffic they may get if the place were more inviting. If they didn’t have to pull up to a dungeon, with no AC, that had dogs in crates at the door, that smelt of bleach and urine. The people at Fairfield are trying to care for the animals YOUR citizens have starved, abused, used as law ornaments, abandoned and discarded like a pieces of trash. They need your help. Not just monetarily, they need laws to be enforced. I know times are tough but this problem isn’t going away. If anything it continues to get worse. I beg you to go to Fairfield and walk through the entire shelter for yourself. If after you still fail to see the problem, may God have mercy on the animals within your county.

  2. Ashley Andersen says

    Bob, Samira and every other employee and Fairfield volunteer can’t do this alone. They give their all. I can’t imagine how hopeless they must feel at times. It’s time for the residents and elected officials to STEP UP. This issue isn’t going away. It’s 2022, DO BETTER.

  3. Suzan Knight says

    The animals appreciate you so much Ashley! We have been here 19 years and the current facilities and staff are the best they have ever been, sadly the facility is just not even adequate. We want so much for the county to step in and do what is right and very much needed.

  4. Warren Gerhardt says

    I have been helping dogs in need for 15 years. Tragic stories like this remind me that the work is never done, and it will never end. South Carolina is growing and booming. It is time to throw a little money to help out these vulnerable and neglected animals. Even if you do not care about dogs, it is an investment that will make the community safer and better. Please Fairfield, do the right thing.

  5. Warren Gerhardt says

    I have been involved in dog rescue for 15 years and stories like this are a crushing reminder that no matter how much time volunteers sacrifice nothing will change until the local governments recognize communities need to take care of their animals. Functional and humane shelters, common sense laws that are enforced, and spay/neuter laws will all lead to a safer and better community

    These dogs are innocent victims and they deserve better

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