Carbon County officials are working to address a number of issues at the county-run animal shelter.
During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, announced that the animal shelter will not be accepting dogs that are owner surrendered until further notice due to the issues, including policies and procedures for volunteers; health problems; and the lack of a full-time county employee managing the shelter operations.
"There are a lot of legal issues that we have to address at this time," he said, adding that a big problem is dogs being dropped off by owners.
"We have no idea of the health and condition of the animals and we cannot continue that at this time, so at this point in time we are not accepting any dogs until we get these issues resolved."
Last week, a dog owner from Long Island, N.Y., dropped off a dog just because the person didn't want it anymore; and county animal warden, Debbie Craver, the only employee at the shelter, walked off the job after problems arose. The board voted on an employment separation with Craver during yesterday's meeting.
Since last Thursday, the shelter has been operated by a number of volunteers who have given their time and love to the dogs currently up for adoption.
Nothstein pointed out that the county has designated Donna Crum and Rebecca Bailey, two county animal cruelty officers, as the lead volunteers for the time being. They are to be contacted when anything needs to be done at the shelter, and they will then get approval from the county before it happens.
Crum, who was present at the meeting, thanked the board for allowing the volunteers to care for the dogs during this emergency situation.
She said that there are a number of good things that have been accomplished through the volunteers, including getting a number of dogs adopted; but added that there needs to be a set of rules and regulations for procedures put in place to allow the volunteers to know exactly what they can and can't be doing.
Crum also pointed out that she feels the job description for animal warden needs to be tweaked because the state isn't offering classes to become certified as a warden at this time. This issue surfaced last year, after the former animal warden, Bruce May, retired.
She again commended the county and the volunteers for working together.
"There are a lot of good things that have transpired," she said. "I hope this (the issues currently being faced) doesn't hinder progress because we've come so far. We all know things have to change, but they can't change overnight. It's going to take time and effort on everyone's part."
Nothstein thanked Crum for bringing the issues to the county's attention and also thanked the volunteers for all their efforts.
He then addressed the issue of fees being accepted.
Currently, because no county employees are employed at the shelter, no money can be collected by volunteers for adoptions or other fees.
"There is now a new process because the volunteers cannot be bonded because they are not county employees," Nothstein said. "They can no longer handle the funds under our insurance policy. People have to understand we are bound by law, and we must do this. We have to be careful in what we do in that respect."
Nothstein said that the new procedure will be that if a person would like to adopt a dog, he or she can fill out the paperwork. They must then come to the commissioners' office, located on the third floor of the courthouse annex in Jim Thorpe between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, to pay the adoption fee. The adopter will then be given a receipt, which can be taken back to the shelter to pick up the dog.
Crum asked the board if the adoption fee could be waived for 501c3 or state-certified rescues that are better equipped with certain breeds.
After a brief discussion, the board said that the fee could be waived if the rescue that wants to take a dog is qualified and meets all criteria of being a 501c3 or state-certified rescue.
Nancy Berchtold of Penn Forest Township, a volunteer at the shelter, addressed the commissioners, explaining what the volunteers are doing is for the love of these dogs and asked the board to "look at this well and do what's right and get care for these dogs."
Nothstein said that he always highly praises the volunteers who have given their time to the shelter.
"We appreciate your time and effort and compassion for the animals," he said.
But, he added that having the volunteers running the shelter without having a proper set of rules in place needs to be addressed, for the safety of the volunteers, the animals, and the county.
"Our volunteers have great intentions, they have gone out of their way, but the problem we are running into is some of the volunteers do not know the rules and regulations and how and what needs to be done," he said, pointing out that volunteers should not be making financial decisions since they cannot be bonded by the county.
Commissioner Thomas. J. Gerhard added that the county does not want to take away from the volunteers and their efforts, but asked the volunteers to be patient as the county works out the problems.
"We're in an emergency situation and it's going to take some time for us to regroup and get someone in the animal warden position," he said. "We want to make sure that volunteers there know the rules and regulations and what they are allowed and not allowed to do. Personally, I want to thank all the volunteers, but it's going to take some time for us to correct this problem."
He then addressed a rumor of the county euthanizing dogs at the shelter.
"Not as long as I'm a commissioner," Gerhard said, adding that he spoke with Dr. Renny Shoop about the health of the animals currently at the shelter and euthanizing was not necessary for any of the animals.
"No dogs there have to be put down and I don't want to put any down."
The county will now continue to work to resolve these issues and put policies in place at the shelter.
Until then, the shelter is still open for adoptions.
To find out what animals are available for adoption or for ways to help the shelter, contact the shelter at (570) 325-4828; via their Facebook page "Carboncounty Animalshelter;" or on petfinder.com.
In related matters, Tom Zimmerman IV, the shelter's fundraising committee chairman, announced that after two days of the fair, a total of $547 has been donated.
He also announced that a clothing drive will be taking place at the Towamensing Township Fire Company next weekend. Proceeds from the drive benefit the shelter.
Nothstein and Gerhard commended Zimmerman and the volunteers of the committee for their fundraising efforts. In the last few weeks, Zimmerman has reported that over $2,500 has been raised for the shelter.