Animal shelter new hires

McDowell County Animal Shelter employees applied for the three animal services positions in Burke County and were offered the jobs. The three (from left) are Alicia Grindstaff, who will serve as animal services technician, Kaitlin Settlemyre, who will be the animal services director, and Lindsay Stump, who will be the animal services coordinator. The three are expected to start in Burke County on Aug. 5.

The good news for Burke County is that it has hired three new employees to run the animal shelter.

The bad news for McDowell County is it is losing its staff at its animal shelter to Burke County.

The operation of the Burke County Animal Shelter, located at 425 Kirksey Drive in Morganton, technically moved under the county manager’s office on July 1. However, the employees who will operate it won’t start work until Aug. 5, said Burke County Manager Bryan Steen. He said the three are working a notice at the McDowell shelter. Animal control will remain under the county sheriff’s office and the shelter and its employees will be animal services.

The three new animal services employees are:

» Kaitlin Settlemyre , who will be the animal services director.

» Lindsay Stump , who will be animal services coordinator, and will be responsible for the shelter’s social media and getting information out to the public to get animals adopted, Steen said.

» Alicia Grindstaff , who will be the animal services technician , and will be responsible for keeping the shelter clean and orderly, Steen said.

“It’s exciting,” Steen said. “We look forward to their arrival and thankful we had the response we had.”

Rhonda Lee, director of human resources for Burke County, said more than 180 people applied for the three positions.

Steen said the three hired for animal services saw the job postings and decided to apply to Burke County. He said the county is pleased to have the opportunity to hire people who are passionate about finding good homes for shelter animals.

Steen said he feels good about the three that have been hired for animal services.

“We’re excited,” Steen said. “It’s a change in the operational model and I’m very pleased the commissioners were supportive of that.

Kay Draughn, clerk to the board of commissioners, said there are plans to have a meet and greet with the new animal services employees in late August in the commissioners board room in Morganton.

Steen said commissioners are serious about turning things around at the animal shelter.

Burke County has been a high-kill shelter despite the efforts of area animal rescues. The animal shelter euthanized animals due to space constraints. A 2017 Public Animal Shelter Report from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shows the Burke County Animal Shelter received 1,714 cats and euthanized 1,517, a nearly 89 percent euthanization rate. The shelter received 1,751 dogs and euthanized 715, a 40.8 percent euthanization rate in 2017. The shelter adopted out 787 dogs and returned 249 to their owners, according to the report.

The high rate of euthanization, along with an outcry from animal advocates, got the attention of county commissioners this year. They said in January they weren’t aware of some of the issues at the shelter, which was under the control of Burke County Sheriff Steve Whisenant.

The Burke County Board of Commissioners didn’t waste much time making changes at the shelter. In March, the board decided to take money from the General Fund, Fund Balance to clean, paint and buy office furniture for the shelter. The board also accepted recommendations from county staff for changes in operation of the shelter. It also took the first steps in the process of building a new shelter in the future.

In addition to the new oversight and employees, the shelter will likely have new hours.

Steen said they may look at running the shelter from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the week for the first couple of weeks after the new employees arrive. After they get their feet wet, the idea is to change the hours for the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, according to officials.

Steen said the 10-7 time period will offer people a better chance to come by the shelter after work and see the animals up for adoption.

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

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