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Halifax County will work on a plan to keep pet adoptions going following a presentation Monday in which Animal Control Supervisor Robert Richardson told commissioners Rainbow Rescue would be leaving its building at the animal shelter.

Board Chair Vernon Bryant tasked Richardson with coming up with an interim plan with Rainbow Rescue from now until July. “After July I’d like for you to come up with a plan where we can keep this adoption going. We’ve got to do better in Halifax County when it comes to animals.”

Richardson told the board Rainbow Rescue has worked with him for many years. “With the announcement last year that Rainbow Rescue was leaving we had to look into what our other options were.”

Assistant Health Director Betty Reese told the board the health department is asking for two full-time employees who would be shelter attendants. “Those attendants would help with the loving, the vetting, the socialization skills, the things that you need to do that’s hard for these guys (animal control officers) to do (when) three days later they have to euthanize the pets. These would differentiate some of the skillsets where they would take care of them, be there for the public and attend to those needs.”

The health department requested $109,000 for the two full-time employees, $60,850 for operating expenses including vet services and food, and a capital cost of $41,720.

Reese said $25,500 of the $41,000 — a one-time cost — is what the health department would need to get the Rainbow Rescue building back up to code and to continue using it as part of the county’s emergency response plan concerning pets. “If you factor in the additional revenue of $19,100 that we anticipate for rescuing the pets you’re looking at around $166,000.”

Richardson said the county has never had its own adoption program and that Rainbow was the outlet that helped the county animal shelter out. “If you look at what Halifax County has done for adopting or potentially adopting animals or at least easing the pressure on the shelter, it's almost zero. We’ve always depended on a rescue and we’ve always ended up where we are right now.”

The shelter only has 36 runs. “We have 24 cat cages and we are the only shelter in this county. Any animal handled comes through our building. That’s from every municipality, what my guys pick up.”

Surrounding counties have implemented adoption programs, Richardson said.

Nash built a new adoption center with animal control. Edgecombe just allotted $4.4 million to build a new animal control shelter and adoption center. Vance County six years ago built a new animal control and adoption center. “Everybody has implemented adoptions because it’s required by animal welfare law. Any animal we bring into our shelter has to be held for a minimum of 72 hours and in that 72 hours it has to be presented to the public and prior to euthanasia it has to be presented for adoption.”

With Rainbow closing there are seven animals left in their building and by the end of the month it’s expected to be empty. “With that said we can look at making our adoption center or we can go back to where we were.”

Richardson said the county euthanizes over 572 dogs a year and over a thousand cats. “That’s a lot and that’s with working with a rescue. If we didn’t work with a rescue you could look for our numbers to at least double.”

While there is a monetary figure attached to euthanasia, there’s also a human cost. “The people that clean, feed, and take care of animals have to euthanize them and they suffer. They suffer what the state calls compassion fatigue. I’m a certified euthanasia technician. Two of my officers are and the other two will be but each year that we’re certified we have to take a class to make sure mentally you don’t get burned out and you don’t get used to what you’re doing. Any avenue to release that pressure from the shelter is wanted.”

In another month, he said, “We’re going to be at a point where we can’t do adoptions at our shelter. We don’t have staff, we don’t have space.”

Reese said without an adoption center, the health department has talked about almost doubling the euthanasia rate. That would mean an additional $33,000. “For me pets are a stress reducer but for our officers they could be a stress inducer because they’re having to do double the work.

Not only are we fighting for the pets and the community, I'm fighting for our animal control staff.”

County Manager Dia Denton said the county has worked with Rainbow Rescue for many years.  “They’ve been a wonderful partner for the county. They’ve really taken the pressure off the county to facilitate those adoptions.”

She said the Rainbow building is owned by the county.

Denton presented options to the board. “We’re working on the budget now. If you wait for us to talk to Rainbow for an interim plan from now to July 1 we can certainly do that. If it’s something you would like to continue into the new fiscal year we can plan those positions into the next budget year.”