Carbon County commissioners want the public to know that the county animal shelter is not closing.
On Friday afternoon, the commissioners released a statement addressing a number of rumors that have been circulating to as far away as Philadelphia, regarding the dog shelter, including that it was closing and that the county was going to euthanize the remaining canines.
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, read a prepared statement, which states, "It's not a secret that we're having personnel issues at the shelter at this time. There are rumors being spread by persons that may be misinformed, and what I believe to be vicious attacks on Facebook and other social media devices.
"We want to take this opportunity to dispel rumors that we're closing the shelter next Thursday and euthanizing the dogs. This is not true," Nothstein said. "We continue to search for employees with qualifications to do the job. It's alarming to the commissioners, that someone arrived at the shelter last week from Long Island, N.Y., asking for someone by name saying that they could drop the dog off at her shelter. The residents of this county should not, cannot and will not fund dogs from outside the county.
"We will assist other counties or shelters that may have emergencies. At this time we are not accepting (owner surrendered) dogs until we can get things under control and have the proper people in place. We apologize to the public for the inconvenience and ask for the continued support of the volunteers at this time."
He again thanked the volunteers that have donated their time, money and energy to the animals of the shelter.
Commissioners William O'Gurek and Thomas J. Gerhard echoed Nothstein's statement.
O'Gurek said that this issue has been around for quite some time and that the county is working on a solution.
"It's a problem we don't have the solutions for yet but we have a good understanding of what the solutions are," he said. "I can't emphasize enough about what the chairman said of not putting dogs to sleep. We're not going to put dogs to sleep. We're going to find the answers.
"If it was easy we would have had the answer already, but there are bumps in the road anywhere you go and we plan to get through them and work towards a solution that will take care of all those dogs because that is what's in our mind. We certainly want to take care of those dogs and look to find a setting and solution where we can move forward with taking care of them and future dogs at the shelter."
He addressed the rumors of the county euthanizing dogs as completely off base.
"It couldn't be more wrong to say we're going to put dogs to sleep or euthanize them because that would be detrimental to our mission as shepherds of a kennel," O'Gurek said. "That's not right. If we were of that mentality, if we did something to act in that capacity then we deserve to be ridiculed, chastised or whatever, but that's not the case. We're going to look to make this thing work."
Gerhard again reiterated his position on euthanizing dogs, saying that as long as he is commissioner he would not stand for dogs being euthanized.
"It's extremely important we keep the shelter open, and it's extremely important for dogs to have a place to go when they are a stray," he said. "Right now, we're taking a deep breath because we want to hire the right people. We're working on that and addressing a lot of the problems.
"We appreciate everything the volunteers have done for us. We can't stress that enough," Gerhard added "There are many, many good volunteers out there. We look forward to their continued support. We're going to do everything we can do on our end here as commissioners to keep the shelter up and running and straighten things out and get the shelter moving in the right direction again."
Nothstein explained that the county will still work with municipal police departments who find strays but fears that owners who don't want their dogs anymore will cause a larger problem by just dumping the dogs.
He added that in addition to not taking in owner surrendered dogs at this time, the county has also changed two policies its adoption policy, which now states that an adopter must pay the adoption fee at the commissioners' office in Jim Thorpe, and its holding policy, which now requires all stray dogs to be held for five days before they become adoptable.
The commissioners also addressed the current situation of no county employee at the shelter.
Nothstein said that the county was going to hire someone at Thursday's meeting but after looking at the applications, decided to hold off for another week so that they could better look into each applicant to choose the right people for the positions.
O'Gurek asked the public to be patient in this critical time because the board wants to resolve the situation once and for all.
"All we're asking for is a little bit of patience on behalf of the public," he said. "We're confident we're going to get it up and running like it should be."
He noted that when the problem began last week, the shelter had 40 dogs, which is over capacity, but the tireless work of the volunteers helped bring the population to the low 20s, which it was on Friday.
"We want people to want dogs and we want dogs to have a good home and that's the goal of the whole thing," O'Gurek said. "Most importantly, we're in the business of finding homes for these dogs, and pets for people who want them and need them, and we'll continue to work towards those goals. We just need time to deal with what happened up there."
The county will now continue to work to set policies and procedures for volunteers; as well as find the people who will fit properly into the positions at the shelter.
Until then, the shelter will be staffed by volunteers and will remain open for operation daily as it has in the past.
For more information on the shelter, on how to help, or to adopt a dog, call the shelter at (570) 325-4828.