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STATEMENT FROM THE RCHS BOARD -- Wednesday February 22nd, 2023
Response to Randolph County Commission’s Announcement of a New Animal Control Facility
Many of you have seen and reached out to us about the Randolph County Commission’s Facebook post of 2-21-2023 announcing “the possibility of constructing a county-owned and operated animal control facility for the first time in county history”. We truly appreciate your supportive messages and calls! As the animal shelter that has been serving in partnership with the county for these services for decades, the Randolph County Humane Society feels compelled to share some things from our perspective.
A little about RCHS – we are a private non-profit organization that began in 1958 serving abandoned, homeless, and neglected animals in Randolph County. It started in a little shack and has grown to what we have today. We have seven staff who cumulatively work 200-225 hours per week. We currently have three buildings on our property that serve approximately 550-600 animals each year. We have our primary dog building and administrative office building that was built in the mid-2000’s that holds approximately 55 dogs; our original building which houses approximately 60-65 cats; and the Earle Building which serves as our adoption “meet & greet” room, added in 2019. We also have two large external play yards; and four outdoor kennels built by Peyton Shields and the roof added by Zach Tysor as their Eagle Scout projects. We are landlocked in our current facility, but we have worked hard to update and improve this facility to best meet the needs with what we have, and to be good stewards of our resources. We’ve updated heating and cooling systems, added a new roof, regularly painted buildings inside and out, installed cat play areas, enclosed our storage shed, and regularly maintain the grounds. We secured grants for two transport vans, and when not hampered by a pandemic, hold regular fundraising events and off-site adoption events. We have established and maintained an excellent reputation with our rescue partners around the region.
We have historically served as the facility that takes in animals seized or picked up by the animal control officer. That officer is employed by the County, and for decades our relationship with that officer has been cooperative and supportive. Our staff have filled in for 911 calls at all hours of the day and night, including holidays, helping save animals that have been hit by a car or otherwise injured, and our constituents have regularly responded to “Yelp for Help” calls for funds to pay for treatment for such injuries so those animals can often go on to live wonderful lives with adoptive families. We have assisted county police and animal control on legal cases where multiple animals were seized due to neglect and abuse. We know what the law requires of these cases so that we can be helpful in setting such cases up for success in the court system, and often have guided our local law enforcement officers through the process of triage and proper documentation on the front end. We have the equipment, the knowledge, the experience, the willingness, and the heart to help our local agencies and the animals through these processes to the best possible outcome.
Philosophically, we do not believe in euthanizing healthy, adoptable pets in order to make room for other healthy, adoptable pets. While there will always be animals that can’t be adopted due to illness or behavioral reasons and must be euthanized, we are as close to a “no-kill” shelter as any shelter can get, and we are committed to remaining so. That often results in our being full and not able to take additional animals until some are adopted or transported to other adoption partners or rescues. That is the trade-off for, and the reality of, working under this philosophy.
We DO believe in spay/neuter as the single most effective way to control pet overpopulation. That’s why we have issued over 600 spay/neuter vouchers funded by grant funds and our own savings over the past three years alone. We’ve not received any funding from the County for spay/neuter assistance. Every year we meet with the County Commission to present our annual funding request and the Memorandum of Understanding for everyone’s signature. For the past decade, that annual amount has been $80,000, which has represented close to 30% of our budget. With the rising costs that everyone is experiencing, that now represents closer to 20% of our $325,000 budget. The rest of our budget is raised through local donations and grants.
On February 21, we met with Commissioners Kesling and Siler, and we presented a request for an increase in funding to $90,000. With no prior conversation about this whatsoever, we were told by Commissioner Siler that they “are moving toward their own facility where they have control”. Commissioner Siler said that, while he isn’t opposed to “helping us out”, he’s “not in $90,000 deep.” Commissioner Siler told us that he “hasn’t seen much improvement in [RCHS shelter] facilities since [he] was a kid”. We asked if he’s been there, and he said he’s driven by. To say there hasn’t been improvement is uninformed and simply false. Never once has he asked questions about our operations, approached us about how we might be able to work together to do anything differently, sought solutions to any perceived problems, or done any of the things that partners in a community effort explore together. This was literally the first time we had met or spoken with Commissioner Siler.
A previous commissioner made it very clear that his goal was to force RCHS to become a kill facility or our funding would be stopped. (He actually screamed it at RCHS President Tina Vial in a very unprofessional and disrespectful way. After that outburst, we met with the two remaining commissioners who were horrified by that behavior and supported our effort to protect life.) That same commissioner ordered the Animal Control Officer (ACO) to dump seven pregnant cats on our property in an effort to force our hand. Dumping animals is illegal, no matter who does it. And still, we made every effort to work with the County. We had asked for statistics of calls he claimed he was getting so that we could target those specific areas with Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) efforts. We never got any of that. Actually, those calls could have been a plea for help, concerns about the ACO not responding to calls, people who were stressed with trying to feed strays, or about the existence of strays. We don’t know. (Note that we get ALL of those calls, too, so we’re aware of the need.)
The most recent animal control officer said on record in a public City of Elkins Rules & Ordinances Committee meeting just a few weeks ago that “unless this shelter is MADE to euthanize cats to make room for more, there’s nothing I can do.” Commissioner Siler referenced visiting another county-owned facility as a model for this new facility. A quick look at that facility’s website shows that they clearly euthanize regularly as a form of animal control.
Commissioner Kesling assured us in our meeting that this is not a done deal, that it takes three votes to pass it. But then we literally were not even out of the parking lot from our meeting and Commissioner Siler posted the “big announcement” apparently without Commissioner Kesling’s knowledge, which is even more troubling if our commissioners are not communicating with each other.
We think it is important that the community know that in 2017, the West Virginia Federation of Humane Organizations published their findings that it costs $218 per animal to operate a shelter. That was six years ago, and with today’s costs, we expect that number has at least doubled. Commissioner Siler’s announcement refers to grant funding for the facilities, but where will the funding come from to actually run it? Will tax dollars be used for salaries, utilities, maintenance, vehicles, insurance, vet bills, pet food and medicine, etc.? Paying all of that with tax dollars would run much higher than the cost of supporting RCHS, who already has the staff, knowledge, expertise, history, and willingness to continue and expand our cooperative partnership. How does this make any fiscal sense at all? As taxpayers ourselves, we call on the RCC to prove to Randolph County residents how they plan to do a better job at managing the animal population in a humane way apart from RCHS versus what could be done by further partnering WITH us by helping us expand our facilities or build new facilities, start a spay/neuter clinic, help with vet costs, etc. There are so many more efficient ways for these resources to be utilized by expanding on existing resources that we already have in Randolph County!
We stand ready – as we always have – to partner with this county and the City of Elkins (from whom we receive no funds) – to continue to provide the services we always have, and to talk about ways those services could even be improved. (The City of Elkins does provide $5,000 to the County for animal services, but we don’t know how that is used.) We’ve talked about additional funding for spay/neuter services and facilities. We’ve always made it known we are willing to move forward with expansion of services. But we were completely blindsided by this announcement, and given our direct experiences and the recent climate, we can only surmise what the intent of this new facility is, and there is very little about it that feels in line with who we know this community to be.
- The Randolph County Humane Society Board of Directors
Check Out Upcoming RCHS Events! -- Monday March 15th, 2021
Check Out Upcoming RCHS Events!
RCHS schedules a number of adoption events, fundraising events and other fun activities throughout the year.
For the latest information on what's going on, be sure to check out our Facebook page and the events section of our website!
We hope to see you at one of these events soon!