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The Daily Tar Heel

Animal Shelter Might Undergo External Assessment

The Orange County Board of Commissioners addressed issues surrounding the animal shelter at its meeting Tuesday night in Hillsborough.

The animal shelter and the private, nonprofit agency that oversees its operations -- the Animal Protection Society -- recently have been the focus of public scrutiny after several employees approached the board last month regarding disease control and management concerns.

The APS-run Wildlife Rehabilitation Center closed last month for reorganization.

Following the commissioners' request to investigate the shelter's procedures, the Orange County Health Department and the county manager's office prepared a report with information and proposals on how to handle the situation.

In addition to disease and management problems, there are also issues over access to information because APS, a private agency, oversees the public shelter.

Orange County Health Director Rosemary Summers said the health department chose two veterinarians to visit the facility Sept. 17 and generate an impartial analysis of disease management at the facility.

Summers said the shelter is now isolating all new animals and improving sanitizing techniques.

She said the APS will be gathering information to get ready for an assessment of the shelter by a yet to be determined national organization, such as the American Humane Society or the Humane Society of the United States.

This information will be received by the APS and the Board of Commissioners, she said.

According to the report from the health department, these external assessments typically cost taxpayers between $8,000 and $20,000.

An Orange County Board of Health subcommittee will meet Oct. 10 to discuss the next steps in the procedure, and APS will do the same Oct. 14.

But County Manager John Link told the board to work on its own schedule.

"It's whatever time frame you're comfortable with," Link said.

Several people -- including a former employee and a worker at the shelter -- addressed the board with their concerns.

Bonnie Norwood, who served in both paid and volunteer roles at the shelter until being fired in March, said the policies of the public shelter often are kept under wraps.

"Many of the policies of the shelter have ceased to be transparent," she said.

Norwood said these issues must be resolved for the sake of the shelters' inhabitants.

"Everyone has their own story and their own issue," she said. "But the animals can't be here to tell you what their needs are."

But Jennifer Reid, who has worked at the APS and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Mebane -- also managed by APS -- said people cannot begin to understand the workings of the shelter without having that experience.

"People have no idea what these workers over here have done," she said, referring to a gathering of APS workers seated behind her.

Board member Stephen Halkiotis said the public has a right to be involved in this process.

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"There's a significant level of public concern," Halkiotis said.

"People have a right to question."

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