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North Bryan County Animal Shelter

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The Sad State of The North Bryan County Animal Shelter

By Steve Hartley

At best, the situation would be described as deplorable, horrific, and detestable. At worst, it was a biohazard where animals’ remains were being dumped in a dumpster after being killed off. The conditions at the Bryan County Animal Shelter in Pembroke are just plain bad.

Probably none of you reading this article are as big a dog lovers as my wife Allison. We’ve got four of them at home, and if it were up to her, we’d have a dozen more in our back yard right now.

As many of you know, my wife’s mother suffered a stroke several weeks back. She’s home now, and mentioned to Allison that she’d like to have a small dog to keep her company. Since we’ve been running some classified ads for the Bryan County Animal Shelter in Pembroke, Allison decided she’d call them to see about adopting a little dog for her.

Joy Bohannon, the volunteer at the shelter, said she had the perfect small dog for Allison’s Mom, and asked if she could meet her at the McDonald’s on Hwy 280. Allison agreed and met her there. Of course she immediately fell in love with the dog, said it looked like a gremlin, and decided she’d be perfect for Mom. But Joy had forgotten to bring the paperwork with her, so Allison followed her back to the nearby shelter.

Here’s where the story takes a drastic turn for the worse. When Allison pulled up and opened her car door, she nearly gagged from the stench. Less than 100 feet from the shelter’s front door sits a dumpster that’s filled with the decaying carcasses of dead animals.

Joy apologized profusely for the situation, saying  that normally, euthanized dogs would be placed in a freezer, but theirs had been broken for months. “Last week, you could see the dog’s limbs sticking out the top,” she said, pointing to the dumpster. Allison broke down in tears as she told me the story later that night.

The shelter’s grounds are fenced in, and Allison said there must have been 30 dogs running around in the yard. The grass needs mowing, and you have to watch your step on the way to the office, which is actually about an 8’ by 8’ handy house.

Allison walked with Joy inside the shelter, which apparently hasn’t been updated in the past 30 years. The cats are kept in one end in a small, maybe an 8’ x 8’ room, their cages lining the walls and stacked several rows high.

In the dog section, again you had to watch your step. The drains are backed up and flow out into the side yard where the dogs run. Of course, some of it just backs up onto the uneven floors.

By the time Allison left there, she was obviously very upset. She got on the phone to all of the television stations, and only one, WTOC, showed any interest in her story. She was also able to contact State Senator Eric Johnson, an animal rights supporter. He got her in touch with his assistant at his office, also an animal lover. She was able to get in touch with the Department of Agriculture’s Animal Protection Division, and helped Allison to file a formal complaint. At press time, we had no word on their followup of the situation.

On Monday morning, we met the guys from WTOC at the McDonald’s and they followed us over to the shelter. There, we met Mr. Thomas Sanders, the Animal Control Officer for North Bryan County and the man in charge of the Animal Shelter in Pembroke. Mr. Sanders said the freezer had broken three months ago, and he’d found someone that morning who would donate a new one. He just hadn’t had the time yet to go pick it up and get it installed.

Mr. Sanders said that stray animals are a problem in North Bryan. He pointed to Joy Bohannon who was holding four puppies in her arms. “I picked up those puppies this morning. Someone called and said they’d been left in a ditch on the side of a road.” Joy toted them inside.

Fearing the dogs would be euthanized, Joy worked hard over the weekend to get as many of them into foster homes as possible. The dumpster had been emptied, but the stench remained.

Joy also showed us the dishwasher for sterilizing the dog food bowls and the washing machine for cleaning the towels. Neither was hooked up and working. “We can’t get them to come hook them up,” she explained, adding that she takes them home and washes them herself.

We left the shelter and visited with County Administrator Phil Jones. Mr. Jones appeared to have no idea that the freezer was no longer at the shelter, and said if someone had let him know he’d have gotten a replacement. He even pointed out that freezers are left at the dump by people moving out of the state, and he could get one basically for free.

We asked Mr. Jones what the chances were of the County paying to build a new shelter. “There are other things higher on the priority list in the county. I don’t see that happening anytime soon,” he said.

I asked him about getting the county’s maintenance crew over there to hook up the washing machine and dishwasher, and he promised to have that done. I mentioned the drainage issues, and he said he’d look into that as well.  We’re happy to report that the machines were hooked up by Wednesday afternoon.



WTOC did a wonderful job with their story, which aired on the 6pm news Monday. Reporter Don Lagona pointed out that the county has a $144,000 budget for the two animal shelters in the county, and he did a good job of showing the difference between the new facility in Richmond Hill and the dilapidated one in Pembroke.

Changes need to be made. In particular, this shelter clearly needs better funding. Just as important, people need to have their pets spayed and neutered.

If you’d like to donate or help in anyway, or if you’d like to adopt one of the animals currently at the facility, please contact the shelter at 653-2480 or Joy Bohannon at 802-989-0539 or Gina Morgan at 657-8590.
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