Innes: We need more vet care, staff & a decent shelter

On hand for Fairfield County Animal Control Director Bob Innes’ presentation on the urgent needs for the animals at the Fairfield shelter last month were: Kathy Faulk, President of HoofandPaw SC; Miss Williamsburg Amanda Peterson; Fairfield County Councilman Dan Ruff; Innes; and Councilwoman Peggy Swearingen. Peterson’s platform during her campaign for Miss South Carolina is Peace for Paws, which brings awareness to animal cruelty and the importance of animal rescue.

WINNSBORO – During public comment time at the April 10 county council meeting, Kathy Faulk, president of Hoof and Paw SC, asked council to consider doing more for the animals in Fairfield County. As an example of how a county can improve the lives of its animals, Faulk pointed to the City of Aiken’s animal ordinance.

In 2005 when the city adopted the ordinance, it spent $80,000 to house and care for 667 abused, neglected and stray dogs.

By 2015, the city’s population had increased by 2,600 residents but the number of dogs in the shelter had dropped to 383 and the cost to care for those dogs dropped to $64,000.

By 2018, the shelter population had dropped to 252.

“That’s because of the ordinance they adopted in 2005,” Faulk said. “Fairfield needs to consider adopting such an ordinance.”

On April 19, Fairfield Animal Control Director Bob Innes addressed the conundrum Fairfield’s shelter faces with a stricter animal control ordinance during a Fairfield County public services and development committee meeting in this speech:

I think the Aiken City ordinance, which is very progressive, is a good ordinance. Dogs must be fixed, registered, microchipped, etc., which is great. And it would be good for this county once we are in a position to actually enforce such an ordinance. But we’re not there yet.

There’s no point bringing in more laws, if we can’t enforce them. With an ordinance like Aiken’s, we would be bringing in a lot more animals and, right now, we wouldn’t have the staff or the room to take care of them.

We Need More Staff

Aiken County has six animal control officers, 12 full time staff and 15 part time staff at their animal shelter. We have four people: a director, two animal control officers and a secretary at the moment. We’ve had two job positions open since July of last year that we’re trying to fill.

We’ve been severely understaffed for the last two years when the county let our temps go. We struggle with overcrowding in the shelter, plus we don’t have enough staff or a proper facility. These things should have been done years ago. When I first came here in 2016, the administration had vision at that time. Then council changed. But if we would have stayed on the right path, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Our full time animal control officers never get a full weekend off. They have to work five and a half to six days a week. Many people don’t realize how stressful this job is. l deal with it daily. It’s extremely difficult with only four people in my department. We struggle every single day. I’ve asked for one more temp in this budget coming up. I can’t get more than that because the county hasn’t got the money.

It takes three animal control officers to cover 710 square miles. That’s how big this county is. Since July of last year, there’s been two officers plus me. And I’m supposed to also be doing my regular job.

We Need a Vet

We desperately need a veterinary service that’s open five days a week. Or we could build a facility with a vet employed by the county. A vet clinic would generate money for the county. We all discussed this four or five years ago, and so the four or five years are down the road now.  At this very moment in time we only have the use of one veterinarian who can spare only three hours a week to fix our animals. And he does as many as he can in that time. Aiken County employs a vet for 30 hours a week.

We take in both Winnsboro’s animals and the county’s, but Winnsboro has only just started to pay the county for taking care of their animals.

We Need a New Facility

The first thing we need before we adopt more ordinances is a new facility. Without that, you can change every law you want in the book, but If you don’t have the staff and space, you can’t enforce them, and nothing improves.

We do need to have stronger laws to have animals fixed, to be microchipped so we know who they belong to when we pick them up. We do need to stop the breeding of dogs – that is especially important for this county because the overbreeding is the problem.

But you can’t change conditions with stricter laws unless we’ve got a plan. And a plan should be to build a facility and work your way up, and then you can enforce tighter laws.

I’m bursting at the seams up the road with animals. You know, times are so tough now.

We Need Investment

The problem with Fairfield is we don’t invest in our [animal control] department. We call upon the sheriff’s department so many times during a week to deal with what’s going on with animals in the county, but they’re short staffed, too. We just need this county to rethink and do the right thing by our animals.

I’ve got 20 dogs down here, a whole one side of our kennels across the road. They’re all court case dogs. I can’t do anything with them until their owners have been to court. And that could be another year.

If we want to progress, we need investment. Nothing’s going to happen unless we invest. I’ve seen animal abuse and neglect in this county go up over the last two years. And it’s getting worse and worse and worse. Much of the public just does not care. We’re picking dogs up daily with more and more injuries, etc.

And then I have people come down here to the shelter and tell me that all I need is a couple of windows put in the building and to get rid of my temporary help. That was a decision made by a previous council. It’s so frustrating.

 I’m sure I’ve come across as being strong headed about this, but when you deal with it every single day, and the staff is worn out, and every day we take in more and more abused, neglected and stray animals it sometimes gets unbearable.

In spite of all this, we’ve actually helped moved this county forward in seven years – from bringing in $6,000 a year with a euthanasia number that was 65 percent, to bringing in $280K last year. That’s a big difference, but even though we brought that money in, none of it has been put into the department. No investment whatsoever. I’ve spent $34,000 trying to improve what I’ve got down the road and every dime of that has come from donations from generous people who want to help. 

The animals down at the shelter at this very moment in time are all perfectly good dogs and they are all adoptable. But they need more vet care, more staff and a new shelter. That’s the bottom line.

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