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
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
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.