Toni Davis

Toni Davis, director of Burke County Friends for Animals, discusses the condition of cats that were taken to the shelter after being found abandoned in Connelly Springs in December 2016.

A local animal rescue was slapped with a $7,000 fine after it failed its most recent state inspection for numerous violations.

The inspection, conducted on Aug. 6-7, cited Friends for Animals Humane Society of Burke County for various violations including not getting care for a dying puppy and lack of proper record keeping to not storing food properly and failing to keep the premises free of accumulations of trash and discarded matter.

The organization has 60 days to either pay the fine or file a written petition for a contested case hearing with the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings to appeal the penalty, according to a letter from the veterinary division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the animal rescue’s President Alan Keller.

The letter said either party can initiate an informal settlement at any time before the 60 days are up.

Heather Overton, assistant director of public affairs for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said there are three levels of inspections failures. The first of those is a notice of warning, which points out and includes things that need to be fixed. A second level is a civil penalty, which is more serious, Overton said. And the third is a notice of revocation of a license. Those levels don’t necessarily have to follow in order Overton said.

Friends for Animals of Burke County last received a notice of warning in November 2016, she said.

Civil Penalties

The $7,000 in total violations for which Friends for Animals Humane Society of Burke County was cited after the Aug. 6-7 inspection were:

» $500 — For failing to maintain records of all animals impounded at the shelter and failing to make records available for inspections upon the request of the representative of the Animal Welfare Section. The violation of failing to make the records available occurred on Aug. 6 and 7. The violation of failing to maintain records of all impounded animals, in particular the unknown number of young animals that died in the care and custody of the shelter and the 22 animals housed at the shelter that had no records, occurred prior to and was discovered on Aug. 6-7;

» $500 — For failing to maintain records on all dogs and cats showing the origin of animals (including names and addresses of consignors) and date animals were received for the 22 animals housed in the shelter that were discovered to have no records on Aug. 6-7;

» $500 — For failing to maintain records on all dogs and cats showing the description of the animals including species, age, sex, breed and color markings for the 22 animals housed in the shelter that were discovered to have no records on Aug. 6-7;

» $200 — For failing to maintain records of the location of the animals if not kept at the registered facility as there were no records available for the animals that were in or had recently been in the foster care program. The shelter had no records of the foster care provider for the mom and litter of puppies that were observed to be in distress and/or poor medical condition on Aug. 6-7;

» $400 — For two violations ($200 per violation) for failing to maintain records including name and address of person to whom the animal was adopted and the date of such transaction for the animals that were adopted through the Cell Dogs program and for failing to maintain records in the event of death of the young animals, showing the date, signs of illness, or cause of death if identified;

» $500 — For failing to maintain records of veterinary care including treatments, immunizations, and date, time, description of medication (including name and dosage), for and initials of person administering any product or procedure. This failure was noted for all the 100-plus reviewed records of the animals housed at the shelter at the time of the inspection;

» $250 — For failing to make all required records available to the AWS upon request and failing to match each animal to its record upon request;

» $100 — For failing to store open bags of food in airtight containers with lids;

» $250 — For failing to provide a separate 5-foot perimeter fence while confining dogs to unsupervised exercise areas;

» $200 — For failing to provide adequate ventilation of the indoor facility such that the air flow was sufficient to minimize odors;

» $100 — For failing to provide a suitable method of drainage for the outdoor facilities;

» $100 — For failing to provide elevated resting surface(s) in primary enclosures housing three cats;

» $100 — For housing 16 cats in the same primary enclosure;

» $100 — For failing to provide a receptacle containing clean litter for waste in the free-roaming cat enclosure;

» $100 — For failing to provide a food receptacle for each adult animal;

» $200 — For failing to properly clean the exercise areas a minimum of two times per day;

» $200 — For failing to sanitize enclosures and accessories a minimum of once every seven days;

» $200 — For failing to keep areas accessible to multiple animals clean and sanitary;

» $200 — For failing to keep the premises free of accumulations of trash and discarded matter;

» $1,500 — For two violations ($1000 for violation A and $500 for violation B) for failing to provide veterinary care or euthanize sick or diseased animals.

Violation A was the failure to provide veterinary care or euthanasia for the dying puppy observed on Aug. 6. Violation B was failure of the shelter to provide veterinary care as instructed by the shelter veterinarian to provide the medications to the heartworm-positive animals and to provide medication monthly to the shelter dogs for heartworm prevention. These violations were noted on Aug. 6-7; and

» $800 — For eight violations ($100 per violation) for failing to inoculate four dogs and four cats for rabies that were 4 months of age or older and had been in the shelter at least 15 days.

Rescue president responds

Overton said she has been told that Friends for Animals officials have agreed to make changes and have been working with inspectors to get the facility in order.

The inspection failure also got the attention of county officials because the organization pulls animals from the county animal control shelter.

Burke County Manager Bryan Steen sent a letter to Keller on Wednesday saying he is concerned about the inspection results and asks for a meeting with him. Steen said Sheriff Steve Whisenant and County Attorney J.R. Simpson will attend the meeting.

“I'm sure you are aware that the inspection deficiencies and civil fine are very concerning to us and failure to correct the identified deficiencies in a timely manner may result in the suspension of Friends for Animals being able to take animals from Burke County Animal Control,” Steen said in the letter.

Steen said Keller quickly responded to the request and a meeting with him is scheduled for Wednesday.

Keller talked to The News Herald on Friday about the inspection and said the organization and its board already have made changes and plans to correct the problems. He’s so confident in the changes already made that he has asked the state for another inspection, which he hopes can happen this week.

He said turnover in staff and the sickness of the director were part of the problem. He said Director Toni Davis has been battling illness this year and there has been a lot of turnover of staff. The organization has six full-time staff, he said. Four of those positions have had turnovers, he said.

Keller and the board also have realized the facility’s technology is old and the way paperwork is done is out of date. He said it took the recent inspection for them to find that out.

One of the biggest issues the rescue was cited for was record keeping.

The report noted that 22 animals didn’t have records at the time of inspection, including a description, date of entry or where the animals were located, the report said. Of the animals who did to have a record, documentation of veterinary care was not provided at the time of inspection and there was not disposition records for animals in foster care, the report said.

The lack of veterinary care records is an inadequacy that also was noted on previous inspection reports dated 3/15/17 and 4/2/18, the report said.

Keller said from now on, no animal will come into or leave Friends for Animals of Burke County without all information being collected for a record of it.

In addition, an inventory of all animals will be taken each Monday to make sure the animals are in good health, whether they need medical attention or have been adopted. Those inventories will go to the board of directors each month, he said.

No records will be altered and a record book will be kept for daily medications, the name of the animal, its intake number and initials of staff member, he said.

“Any medication will be given by three people, other than the vet,” Keller said. “That way we have accountability on medications.”

Keller said disciplinary action will be taken with any employee who fails to follow the new rules.

In addition, Keller said the organization will hire another person whose No. 1 job will be records. They also plan to find out what the best record-keeping program is and the board is putting together a committee that will tour some of the top recommended shelters in the state to observe how things are done there, he said. They hope to learn the most efficient way to do things, he said.

Keller said Friends for Animals will no longer do any foster-to-adopts. He said by state rules, it can’t but organization officials didn’t know that until the latest inspection. No animal can come into the facility that doesn’t belong to the Friends for Animals, it has to be a stray or surrender, and none will leave without being spayed or neutered, he said.

Each dog will have its own food bowl and Keller said he’s having bowl racks made out of PVC. As for the cat group room, Keller said they’ve always had a group feeder and nothing was ever said during previous inspections. A new policy is no more than 12 cats in the group room and there will be a litter box for every three cats that will be cleaned at least twice a day. Each one will have a food bowl, he said.

As for the dog play yard, Keller said there will be no dogs unsupervised and it will be cleaned after each group of dogs.

“We’re going beyond what the state tells us,” Keller said.

Water won’t be used to clean it if the temperature is 37 degrees or below outside, he said.

The general areas of the facility such as the lobby, hallways, adoption room and multi-purpose room will be cleaned first thing each day when employees get there, Keller said. Members of the board of directors will make night-time inspections to make sure it’s being cleaned and taken care of, he said.

As for the fencing and ventilation, Keller said members are getting estimates for double fencing and will hire an HVAC company to analyze the system and clean it.

Another change already made is employees now wear uniforms and those who are performing community service will wear vests, Keller said.

“We’re taking this serious,” Keller said. “Whatever the state wants is what we’re going to do.

“Going forward, there has to be accountability.”

Notice of Warning

As part of the inspection report, a notice of warning was included that said continued or future violation of the statutes or regulations will be considered a willful disregard or violation of the NC Animal Welfare Act and the rules issued.

“Such willful disregard or violation may result in action against your facility's license and/or the assessment of a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per violation,” the warning said.

The inspection fail is just the latest trouble for the organization.

Its long-time assistant director Teddi Stamey was fired in January after she was charged with two felony counts of trafficking methamphetamine. She has pleaded guilty in federal court and is awaiting sentencing.

And some of the violations cited in the most recent inspection are things the state has cited the organization for previously, according to the report.

Sharon McBrayer is a staff writer and can be reached at smcbrayer@morganton.com or at 828-432-8946.

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