GREENSBORO — Dozens of people streamed into the Guilford County Animal Shelter to adopt pets when it reopened Saturday, nearly a week after closing to the public following an investigation into charges of cruelty and mismanagement.
Shelter organizers weren’t surprised when people lined up to adopt pets, said Guilford County Deputy Manager Clarence Grier, who is serving as interim director of the shelter.
“We expected an initial wave today because of the controversy and the news,” Grier said Saturday. “One of the things we always say is there are two things you don’t want to mess with — people’s children and their pets.”
Twenty animals found new homes Saturday and another 22 were placed with rescue groups, said Guilford County Animal Control Manager Logan Rustan, who is acting as the interim animal welfare agent for the shelter.
“I think today went really well,” he said.
Rustan said people who stopped by the shelter on Saturday saw that changes have been made, and that the changes are “for the better.”
A happy white husky/German shepherd mix was one of the first to find a new home.
“Come here, Mattelin,” Lesley Matthews called to the prancing dog.
In a moment, the dog bounded over and licked the Jamestown woman’s face as she sat in the shade in a pen at the Guilford County Animal Shelter.
“I’m already in love,” Matthews said.
Matthews adopted Mattelin on Saturday, as the shelter kicked off an adopt-a-thon and opened to the public for the first time since closing on Monday. The shelter has resumed its regular hours, Rustan said, with adoption fees remaining at $95 for dogs and $50 for cats.
Guilford County closed the shelter Monday to assess the situation after taking over operations from the nonprofit United Animal Coalition, which had run the shelter for years.
Following months of complaints, rumors and allegations of cruelty and abuse leveled against the shelter, the N.C. Department of Agriculture on Monday revoked the United Animal Coalition’s license to operate animal shelters in Guilford and Davidson counties. The nonprofit suspended — then fired — shelter director Marsha Williams.
The state released the findings of its investigation Monday, noting more than 100 documented examples of animal cruelty at the Guilford shelter and abnormally large numbers of dead animals found in kennels at the Davidson shelter.
The Guilford County Sheriff’s Office and the Lexington Police Department, in conjunction with their respective district attorneys, are continuing separate investigations into unrelated reports of animal cruelty and potential misappropriation of county money.
The federal Drug Enforcement Agency is also investigating potential violations at both shelters.
Commissioners in both Guilford and Davidson counties voted Monday to terminate their respective contracts with the United Animal Coalition.
County staff members are managing the facilities on an interim basis.
The county spent the week assessing animals and cleaning Guilford’s shelter, Grier said. A veterinarian from the Lake Brandt Veterinary Hospital, James Lofgren, spent the week examining animals for free, Grier said.
Long-time volunteers worked all week socializing animals.
Staff called in recognized animal rescue operators, who took in about 150 animals for adoption during that period.
The shelter still contained 607 animals Saturday morning. About 200 were ready for adoption.
Staff had to euthanize animals that were “very sick,” Rustan said. But all were seen by veterinarians before that step was taken.
“Many animals were taken off the euthanasia list,” he said.
Staff expected a rush to adopt Saturday morning, Rustan said.
“The two top priorities for today are to get as many animals into new homes as we can and to earn the community’s trust,” he said Saturday. “We wanted to reassure the public that new people are here to take care of the animals.”
Beverly Levine, who has volunteered at the shelter for about 10 years, said working with the animals without the public was unusual.
“A lot of us were in rooms, by ourselves with the animals, just giving them attention,” she said. “It just felt good to be with them.”
Prospective pet parents included Brandy Areno, who went to the shelter for a specific tabby cat.
Areno adopted Jacob, who had been in the same cage as a cat Areno’s mother adopted about two weeks ago.
Tahlik and Genesis Taylor sat on a bench in an outside dog run and threw a tennis ball for Harley to retrieve. Harley, a 5-month-old light-brindle-color Labrador retriever/pit bull mix, scrambled to the ball then ran to stand by the bench on which the couple sat.
“I like that he’s playful,” Tahlik Taylor said.
Genesis Taylor agreed with her husband and offered that he’d make a good family dog.
The couple had arrived early, so they could be choosy about which dogs they interacted with.
“We were looking for something smaller,” Tahlik Taylor said, “but kind of fell in love with this one.”
As early as the Taylors arrived, they didn’t beat Matthews.
“I wanted to be first,” she said with a smile. “I got my pick of the litter, literally.”