Category Archives: Surry County

Surry animal advocates hope abused, abandoned dogs are safe in the pound

A Surry County animal control officer  took custody last week of  two severely injured pit bulls*, found tethered with heavy logging chains behind a vacant business in Mt. Airy. The two reportedly are receiving care at the Surry County pound. One of the dogs had a lip hanging off of his muzzle and the other had a broken leg. According to a local rescuer, there was blood splattered over the surrounding area.

The news report doesn’t say what treatment the dogs have received at the Surry County Pound or what their current condition is.

One Surry animal advocate asked me: “I wonder if these two boys will be the first pits to leave that shelter alive?” According to records obtained from Surry County as a result of a public records request, 17 “pit bulls” left the shelter alive between Jan. 1 and Oct 23, 2012: three were “released to owner” and 14 were “returned to owner.” (I have no idea what the difference is.) Of the 14 dogs released to rescue and 111 dogs adopted from the Surry pound during that time period, none were identified as “pit bulls.” (Not that animal control officers or shelter workers are actually are any good at identifying actual pit bulls when they see them, because they typically are not.)

The Surry County pound had a kill rate of almost 91% in 2011. Between Jan 1 and Oct. 23, 2012, the overall kill rate was just under 89%.

*I’m only calling them pit bulls because the news report does. One looks reasonably pit bull-esque, but the other looks more like an American bulldog, Rhodesian ridgeback or boxer mix.

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Break out the punch bowl, Surry pound passed inspection

OMG, big amazing news: the Surry County pound: actually passed inspection!

If you find it a little quaint that the local paper is a bit too excited and boosterish over the local pound actually managing to pass a routine inspection, then here’s some backstory.

Of course, the NC Animal Welfare Act and Administrative Code address only the barest minimum standards for animal welfare and are really more concerned with the standards for killing animals than keeping them alive. Nonetheless, many of our county pounds are so badly managed or underfunded (or both) that they habitually fail (*cough* Duplin County *cough*).

You can see all inspection reports for all NC animal shelters here.

If you have a complaint about your local pound and would like an inspector to visit, you may submit a written request to:


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The “way forward” in Surry County? Ditch Gary Brown.

Surry County animal advocates met yesterday with HSUS-NC director Kim Alboum, Surry County pound director Gary Brown and two county commissioners (Paul Johnson and Eddie Harris) to discuss what needs to be done about to turn the Surry pound from an animal death center into an actual shelter.

From the news coverage, it seems that Alboum served up platitudes that anyone could come up with: “move forward with a clean slate,” “shelter needs volunteers,” “continue educating the public about the importance of spaying and neutering pets,” and “if these people work together they can really move mountains.” (UPDATE: Wendy reported in the comments that Alboum also said that  the shelter “is not responsible for the extremely high kill rate & that we should not anger them for fear they may not treat the dogs humanely.” Really, Kim Alboum? You are afraid director Gary Brown and his staff are going to mistreat animals so you’re telling people to back down? What was the name of your organization again?)

What Kim Alboum will never say a word about, however, is that there is a clear-cut program already in use in at least 44 open-admission community shelters around the country that is proven to save at least 90 percent of the animals that enter shelters.

That’s because the HSUS (along with ASPCA and PETA) opposes efforts for real animal shelter reform, preferring instead to bestow “Shelters We Love” awards on high-kill, gas chamber pounds that lie about their outcome rates to create an illusion of “improvement.”

Meanwhile, Surry pound director Gary Brown made it clear that he is the mountain animal advocates must move in order to improve anything. Having already demonstrated his hostility toward volunteers and the very idea of actually adopting animals out instead of killing them, he didn’t appear very happy with the proceedings, scowling at the camera when it pointed his direction. When asked “Are you going to be part of that movement forward?” by a reporter, Brown said “No comments, I’m not making any comments.”

“But seriously,” the reporter said, “You’re the director of the shelter …” Still no comment.

It appears that Brown doesn’t want to share his sandbox and play nice. Considering that the choices made by shelter directors are the most significant variables in whether animals live or die, the only way forward in Surry County is to move that mountain. Get Gary Brown OUT of the directorship of the Surry County animal control, and bring in a hard-working compassionate person who won’t put up excuses, barriers and smokescreens in place of the programs necessary to save shelter pets instead of killing them.

Now is the time to write to the Surry County Commissioners, County Manager Chris Knopf and county health director Samantha Ange ( and tell them that Gary Brown is not working out for the people and pets of Surry County! Demand that they hire an animal control director who will work with volunteers and rescue groups to save the healthy and treatable pets that come into the Surry County pound (in other words, turn it into a place worthy of the term “shelter.”

UPDATE: One attendee of the meeting was David H. Diamont, who will be running for county commissioner against Paul Johnson (said to be a good pal and defender of Gary Brown). According to a post on the Friends of Surry County Animal Shelter Facebook page, Diamont told one meeting attendee that he will be an advocate for the changes animal advocates are requesting. Here is his campaign page on Facebook.


Filed under HSUS, NC county/municipal pounds, Surry County

Surry County up to 10 on Petfinder

Surry County pound’s Petfinder listing is up to an unprecedented 10 dogs! No cats, though. Sorry cats, if you are unlucky enough to get locked up in the Surry pound your chance of getting adopted is less than 4%. But considering that less than a month ago there were ZERO Surry pets on Petfinder, this is a tiny step forward.

Here’s hoping someone will fall in love with one of these lucky 10:

Surry dogs on Petfinder

Dogs available at Surry County Animal Control, Dobson, NC. $100 adoption fee includes spay/neuter at a local participating Veterinarian and age-appropriate vaccinations. For more information regarding the adoption process please email Adoption hours are: Monday – Friday 10:00am – 4:30pm.

I’m thinking that Surry Pound Director Gary Brown should go next door to Alleghany County and ask them how they manage to save 73% of their pets (compared to less than 10% in Surry) with an allocation of $25 per animal (compared to$111.9 in Surry).


Filed under NC county/municipal pounds, Surry County

HSUS needs help figuring out how to get animals adopted (and other news from Surry County)

HSUS, the same group that bestowed awards on two of North Carolina’s worst pounds, is riding into Surry County on a white horse in the wake of  recent events.  “The state director of the Humane Society of the United States wants input from county residents on how to improve the number of animals being adopted at the local shelter.”

Here’s a clue: How about ACTUALLY PUTTING THE ANIMALS UP FOR ADOPTION? Because that’s usually the first step. And it’s one that the Surry County pound has had some trouble taking.

The Surry County Pound currently lists 5 dogs and no cats for adoption on its Petfinder page.

July 17, 2012 Surry County Animal Shelter on Petfinder

Today’s Petfinder listing for the Surry County pound.

I know from inspection reports that there are 38 primary enclosures and that at any given time the number of animals in the pound could range from 16-36 dogs and 10-17 cats. I called the Surry pound to ask how many animals are currently in the shelter, and the employee said at first that she didn’t know and that there was really no way for her to come up with a “visual estimate.”

“You mean, you don’t have that sort of thing written down somewhere?” I asked

Then I was told “that’s not a matter of public record.”

Really? the number of pets who are currently incarcerated in a taxpayer-funded animal shelter is “not a matter of public record?” When pressed on the point, the employee admitted that she did not know if she had to give me the information, saying “It’s not our responsibility to tell you.” When pressed further, she said she didn’t know if she is allowed to tell me.

So I asked who could tell me the information, and she told me to call the county commissioners. Sure, of course people who don’t work at the pound would know that information off the top of their heads. OK, so she was BSing me and putting me off … it’s pretty much exactly what I expected.

She did tell me that “the adoption center is full,” and there are 12 cages, and one cage has two puppies in it. So 13 dogs are currently up for adoption. She said they are taking their pictures and putting them on Petfinder “today.”   It would already be done if Surry pound director Gary Brown had not banned volunteer Wendy Willard, who was willing to photograph and promote their pets for free (he also banned photography by all other volunteers.)

Meanwhile, the Surry pound’s open hours for adoptions are Monday-Friday, 10 am-4 pm, when most of the world is at work. So here’s another tip: Open on evenings and weekends when people can bring their families to meet your adoptable pets. Hold offsite adoption events so people can see your pets without having to go to the pound.

Meanwhile, HSUS is having a meeting about “what you can do to improve the lives of animals in the Surry County community.” HSUS NC director Kimberley Alboum said, “Discussion will include techniques to get the community involved with the local animal shelter, and how to advocate for all animals in the community,”

Surry County residents already know “how to get involved” and advocate for animals. They don’t need HSUS to tell them. Willard and other advocates (many of whom maintain a Facebook page called Friends of Surry County Animal Shelter) have demonstrated this already by trying to volunteer at the shelter and publicize the (very few) pets made available for adoption.

But the reality, as demonstrated by the banning of Willard and all volunteer photography, is that Gary Brown doesn’t want anyone advocating for the animals in his animal shelter, which is paid for (as is his salary) with Surry County taxpayer money. Surry animal advocates don’t need the HSUS, what they need is a shelter director who is committed to protecting the shelter pets of Surry County and following a proven blueprint for lifesaving success at shelters across the country.

Meanwhile, Mayberry4Paws, a 150-member non-profit group, spoke to the Surry County Commission yesterday and offered to do the things Gary Brown is unwilling to do increase adoptions and decrease the killing at the Surry Pound. The group’s director, Rachel Hiatt, said M4P is willing to:

  • Organize and assist with adoption events.
  • Post photos of adoptable animals online.
  • Provide financial assistance to help pet owners spay and neuter animals to reduce the unwanted population.
  • Assist with grant writing to cover costs of shelter services.
  • Provide volunteers to help at the shelter.
  • Provide voucher applications to animal control officers for distribution to needy families.

“We stand ready and willing to help,” [Hiatt], looking directly at the board.

“It cost Surry County taxpayers almost a half-million dollars to kill over 4,000 pets in 2011,” Hiatt said, noting that the county doesn’t really need a new shelter currently being planned. “We need new and more effective procedures for running the animal department.”

She pointed out to the board that the definition of “insanity” is “repeating the same behaviors and expecting different outcomes.”

“It is time to change behaviors in the animal control department,” she said. “Please let us work with you to come up with plans for reducing intake and kill numbers and in turn, reduce the budget required for the animal control department.”

The response from county commissioners? “After weeks of remaining mum on the issue … the commissioners urged patience and said they are working on the problem.”

Surry County is a shining stinking example of why we need CAPA.

And hey, by the way, wasn’t the Surry Pound supposed to be reinspected by the NDCA&CS 60 days after it miserably failed an inspection on April 26? That means there should have been an inspection on Monday, June 25, 2012. So add to the fact that our current legislation is inadequate, it’s also poorly enforced.

Meanwhile, over in Pilot Mountain, the police department doesn’t want the strays it finds to end up in the Surry County pound and goes out of its way to keep them out. Here are two guys found on Saturday, currently living at the Pilot Mountain PD until they can find homes for them (vetting assistance available!):

Two fun dogs from Mt. Pilot

Two fun dogs from Mt. Pilot Pilot Mountain await new homes at the PMPD, which doesn’t want to subject them to a questionable fate at the Surry County Pound.

UPDATE! As of 6 pm today the staff of the Surry County Pound has managed to add AN ENTIRE DOG to their Petfinder page. Although, to be fair, he’s a very small dog (DOBBIE, a pomeranian/yorkie mix). At this rate, they will have the 13 current adoptables added on July 29, 2012.

New dog at Surry pound!


Filed under HSUS, NC county/municipal pounds, Surry County

Surry County pound bans volunteer for taking photos

"Unadoptable" beagle in Surry County pound

An “unadoptable” beagle in the Surry County Pound.

The Surry County pound banned volunteer Wendy Willard from the facility on Wednesday after she posted some photos she took of animals the pound management calls “unadoptable” and posted them on Facebook.

Many pounds ban photography because they don’t want the public to see the abusive situations they impose on the animals in their care. But the animals in Willard’s photos are in kennels or cages that look clean and well-maintained, and the animals themselves appear healthy and clean. So what’s the problem with posting these photos?

“We were getting calls about animals that she photographed and when they could be adopted,” Surry pound director Gary Brown said

So, the problem is that after seeing these animals, people wanted to adopt them, but Brown and his staff wanted to kill them. Willard wrote in a post on Facebook:

I was advised of this today they feel I have done more harm than good with my pictures. That the album Shelter Life showed pictures of animals that were still being evaluated & were euthanized. This caused them quote “Problems that they do not deserve as people wanted to adopt these dogs & they then had to inform these people that they would never be available.”

Apparently, in Brown’s scale of good and bad, having to tell someone they can’t adopt a pet because it’s been killed is far worse than killing pets.

Killing pets is something Brown and his staff are quite good at. The Surry County pound killed more than 90 percent of the pets it took in last year, adopting out only 186, or 4.53 percent. of the 4,102 pets unlucky enough to end up there. It ranks as the sixth worst pound by kill rate in NC, behind Montgomery, Washington, Caldwell, Edgecombe and Anson counties.

I have written to Brown and his boss, Surry County Health and Nutrition Center director Samantha Ange, to ask what makes a pet  “unadoptable” at the Surry pound and why these particular pets were deemed such. I’m not holding my breath for a reply.


Filed under NC county/municipal pounds, Surry County

Animal advocates demonstrate at Surry County kill pound; Surry County Humane Society calls them “idiots”

Last Thursday, about 75 animal advocates demonstrated outside the Surry County Pound to protest the high kill rate* after a failed inspection revealed inhumane treatment and other deficiencies at the facility.

One of the protesters’ demands was for the pound to actually make some sort of effort to adopt out animals instead of completely ignoring the free, online services that could get pets seen by potential adopters.

The good news is that there are now a whopping EIGHT animals listed on the Surry pound’s Petfinder page, which is eight more than were listed a week and a half ago. Their Adopt-A-Pet page, however, still lists the pound as being located in Nebraska and hosts no adoptable pet listings.

Meanwhile, Jim Hazel of the Surry County Humane Society supported the high kill rate at the Surry pound. (In 2011 Surry County killed 90.7 percent of the dogs and cats they took in, making it the sixth worst pound in the state.) “I think they do a really great job with limited resources. This is the best group of people I’ve ever seen here.”

Of the anti-killing animal advocates, Hazel said “a lot of them are idiots and you can quote me on that.”

In reply to the protesters,  County Commissioner Paul Johnson basically admitted he doesn’t give a fig about the animals in the pound: “I put people first, animals come second,” he said.  “we are not putting the county taxpayers in jeopardy and spending millions of dollars to do this.” Never mind that Facebook, Petfinder and Adopt-A-Pet are all free services …

The next step for animal advocates could be to write a letter or email to the Surry County Commissioners and the county manager, and let them know that increasing adoptions and reducing killing does not have to cost the county any more money. Here’s an excerpt from the email I sent:

Commissioner Paul Johnson was recently quoted as saying he does not support “spending millions of dollars” to fix your broken shelter system. The good news is: you can fix your shelter system, increase your lifesaving success and increase community support for your shelter without spending more money. Today, there are dozens of “No Kill” communities across the US that prove lifesaving success can be achieved at “open admission” municipal shelters in urban and rural, Northern and Southern, large and small communities.

They also disprove the idea that communities with high intake rates can’t be No Kill because of the antiquated and disproven notions of “pet overpopulation” and the “irresponsible public.” Best of all, many of these communities have proven that No Kill animal control is cost-effective and does not necessarily require increased expenditures on animal control.

Quite simply, it makes more economic sense to adopt out animals, transfer them to private non-profit rescue groups and increase the number of strays reclaimed by their families, all revenue positive activities that save the costs of killing and bring in fees and other revenues.

In addition, it just makes good bipartisan politics: In a national survey, 96% of Americans—almost every single person across the social and political spectrum—said we have a moral obligation to protect animals and that we should have strong laws to do so.

If you are interested in enacting good policy and improving your local economy, then invest in lifesaving at the Surry County shelter. Given the cost savings and additional revenues of doing so (reduced costs associated with killing, enhanced community support, an increase in adoption revenues and other user fees and additional tax revenues), and  the positive economic impact of adoptions, Surry County cannot afford NOT to embrace No Kill.

You can read more about how to run a humane, lifesaving animal shelter while saving money by downloading Dollars & Sense: The Economic Benefits of No Kill Animal Control by clicking here. (The blueprint for achieving No Kill in your community can be found here.

A multi-state study found there was no correlation between rates of lifesaving and per capita spending on animal control. The difference between those shelters that succeeded at saving lives and those that failed was not the size of the budget, but the commitment of its leadership to implementing alternatives to killing. In other words: YOU, the Surry County leadership, have an opportunity to make a positive, life-affirming change, which will benefit animals AND people in your community.

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