CHERAW — The group created to reform the troubled Chesterfield County Animal Shelter begins its work this week.
On Sept. 7, the Chesterfield County Council — maneuvered into the uncomfortable position of taking over the shelter by the state Attorney General — appointed a seven-member advisory committee to oversee the overhaul. That action came one week after the council voted to remove Sheriff Sam Parker from his administrative duties overseeing the animal shelter.
The new committee sat down for the first time Wednesday afternoon to carve a plan of salvation for the problem plagued pound.
One member hoped the first order of business would be authoring a clear and concise mission statement.
“The first thing I’d like to see us do is set up a mission statement for our committee, and from that everything should flow,” said Joy Young, one of three citizen representatives on the fledgling committee.
“And in my opinion, we need animal ordinances — the first thing — and the completion of all the items identified by the Attorney General to be completed by Oct. 1,” she said.
Young has been one of the most vocal critics of the operations at the shelter since she first visited the facility several years ago, shortly after moving to Chesterfield County to retire.
Controversy has always surrounded the shelter, but even more so, since the discovery of 22 dogs shot to death and dumped in a landfill across the street from the shelter. The four animal control officers working under the Sheriff’s department accused of shooting the animals have been fired, but have will not criminal charges as determined by the Attorney General.
The shooting incident, which made national headlines, resulted in a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigation and culminated with a court order presented to the Chesterfield County Council.
Council signed the court order last month releasing Parker of the shelter operations. However, during the same meeting with council, Parker himself requested to be relieved of his responsibilities there.
Young, of Chesterfield, said she will also work to establish partnerships between the shelter and viable and reliable rescue groups.
“I’d like to see a network of rescue (groups) developed, and I don’t mean just any … some of these rescue (groups) need to have site visits, be thoroughly checked out and screened. Not every rescue group is created equally,” said Young.
“I’d also like to see a network of volunteers. That will be critical to us,” she said, especially now as they work toward what she hopes will be the construction of a new shelter.
Young said the current shelter isn’t much of a shelter; it is old and there is no real protection from the cold and the rain.
“It’s insufficient for what the county needs to handle every year,” said Young.
“I hope we can slow that revolving door down, with a good network of volunteers, to reduce the killings … this county has enough heart and humanity that we can fix it — and we can fix it in no time,” she said.
County Council chose to create the advisory committee with four of its own — Councilman Frank Plyler, who will chair the group, and Councilmen Crawford Moore, Robert Cole and Doug Curtis — and three citizens, including Young and fellow animal advocates Nancy Kimrey and Karen Stangel. Plyler could not be reached for comment.
One of the major next steps in taking over the shelter operations will be the hiring of an all new staff.
The job for manager of the shelter is currently posted and applications are being accepted by the county through Sept. 16.
One person who intends to seek the job is Jerry Gaskins, founder and director of the local paws and claws organization.
Gaskins is encouraged by the county’s new approach to running the shelter.
“They are definitely taking steps in the right direction,” Gaskins told the Chronicle. “It’s going to be a long and slow process, but they’re headed in the right direction.”