Since Baldwin County took over the county’s animal shelter from the state last October, numerous controversies and claims have been circulated on social media, ranging from “The shelter has become high kill” to “The shelter isn’t feeding its animals.”
Staff at the Baldwin County Animal Shelter said the claims couldn’t be further from the truth and said they continue to invite the public to come and tour the facility to see the truth for themselves.
The Baldwin Times took such a tour last week and was allowed access to the complete facility, with no question going unanswered by County Human Officer and Shelter Director Gina Jones.
Jones was actually an hour late for the scheduled interview, as she was called away to help assist with some lost sheep and goats that wandered onto someone else’s property on County Road 9.
During the Baldwin Times’ visit to the facility, numerous residents came in for various reasons. One resident who had adopted a dog from the facility brought the dog back for “a reunion visit,” with staff immediately responding to their former resident’s presence with lots of treats and loving attention.
One shelter resident, an older dog named George, was given free reign around the front office, though he generally chose to remain on his bed pad during the visit - as he had allegedly gotten into a box of treats earlier and was feeling somewhat sleepy due to his overeating.
With regards to recent rumors that the staff was not properly feeding the animals, Jones appeared visibly upset by the allegations and said it was highly disappointing to see what people were saying.
“Everyone that works here has a big heart for animals, and we would never do something like not feed them or deny them care,” Jones said. “If somebody was doing something like that, they wouldn’t be working here any more, I’ll tell you that. We go above and beyond to give these animals all of the care they need, and for anyone to insinuate otherwise is frustrating and highly disappointing.”
County officials have already addressed the rumors that the county has become a high-kill shelter in a county commission meeting earlier this year.
County Administrator Ron Cink said since the county’s October takeover, county staff has worked hard to make necessary changes at the shelter, including purchasing new equipment and supplies needed for the animals.
“For example, we purchased a microscope so we could readily identify what parasites or diseases an animal might have, which helps us more readily treat the animals,” Cink said.
Cink released figures that showed the shelter’s activities over the last few months, which included adoption and euthanasia statistics.
63 dogs were reunited with their owners, 148 were adopted and 114 were rescued.
16 dogs did have to be euthanized: five for parvo, severn for other illnesses and injuries and four for behavioral issues.
Cink said the county is also moving toward a new trap, neuter and release program for the county’s feral cats that should decrease the number of kills for cats and help better control the local population.
“100 cats a month were being euthanized before we took over,” Cink said. “There are other better ways to handle the feral cat population than what was being done.”
Cink said even though the county wasn’t mandated to work with cats, he wanted to try to have the county do its part to help that part of the pet population.
During the interview at the shelter, Jones said the decision to have an animal put down is not taken lightly or done without considerable discussion.
“We have policies in place regarding the process of even considering euthanizing an animal,” Jones said. “There is an advisory team in place that helps us make those decisions, and it’s all done in a humane way, if it’s decided it’s absolutely necessary to do it.”
Jones said the county has made several improvements to the facility since its takeover, including cleaning out and fixing unused areas to be able to help more animals, buying improved equipment like a microscope to help diagnose issues with the animals and adding fencing to the facility for better security.
“We’ve been making a lot of progress in a short amount of time, and it’s only going to continue to get better,” Jones said. “We’re finding out what works, what doesn’t work and finding the best ways we can to try to help these animals and find each and every one of them a loving home.”
Jones said a lot of the criticism the shelter has faced has come from people who have never visited the shelter. She invited them and anyone else to visit the shelter at any time, but especially during the open house to be held Feb. 17 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
“We just want to show everyone what we’re doing here and see these wonderful animals we get to take care of,” Jones said. “And, hopefully, a lot of folks will find them a new friend they’ll want to take home.”