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State, owner disagree on shelter, rescue

Project Pawz, a pet rescue organization in New London, is taking steps to meet the demands of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Veterinary Division following an investigation into the group.

Dr. Patricia Norris, director of the animal welfare section in the department’s veterinary division, sent a letter to Project Pawz Sept. 9 via owner Wendy Laney.
Norris wrote that her office “opened an investigation into the potential operation of unregistered animal shelters” on Burris Burleson Road and Austin Road, both in New London.

Animal Health Technician Jay Blatche visited the Austin Road location to try to inspect it Sept. 9 but was turned away by Laney, according to the letter from Norris.

“When he attempted to hand you an animal shelter registration packet, you informed him you were already aware of the regulations and you refused to accept the packet,” Norris wrote.

Norris provided Laney with a link to the animal shelter registration application.

“Until these facilities have valid AWS animal shelter certificates of registration, you may not operate them as animal shelters,” Norris wrote. “Therefore, you are directed to cease operating as an animal shelter at both locations and find suitable accommodations for any animals currently in the care and custody of these facilities, until you have obtained a certificate of registration.”

The letter says Laney was in violation of a state statute for running an animal shelter without the certificate of registration and could face a civil penalty of up to $5,000.

On Sept. 11, Laney said she disagreed with the department, saying she didn’t operate a public shelter and that the animals were on private property.

Laney said the animals were well-cared-for, with an outdoor play space, plenty of water for drinking and cooling off and more.

Laney said she told Blatche she knew she would not pass inspection since she was not trying to run a public shelter and was not trying to meet those standards.

“I don’t mind Jay walking around and looking at the dogs,” Laney said. “I mind inspecting a building I’m not operating as a shelter or plan to operate as a shelter.”

At the time, Laney said she was confident the situation would work out.

“I am absolutely not concerned,” she said, stressing the animals were protected and on private land.

A kitten and a dog each needed medications and were receiving them as required, receiving care at Albemarle Medical Clinic. The kitten’s medicine was stored off-site since it had to be refrigerated, she said. The animals were also spayed and neutered at Cabarrus Spay and Neuter.

Some animals belonged to Project Pawz while others were Laney’s private animals.

While some animals are cared for in foster homes, the ones on Project Pawz’s property were largely not adoptable, she said.

Laney has agreed to comply with the department’s requirements, according to Heather Overton, assistant director of the public affairs office of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“The owner has agreed to disperse her animals and move towards maintaining levels of a rescue organization,” Overton said via email. “Our animal welfare section has asked for weekly updates and will continue to monitor. She has agreed to get down to rescue levels within 60 days.”

Stanly County Manager Andy Lucas said the county has attempted to work with Project Pawz.

“Ms. Laney has not complied with our regulations that in order to adopt animals you have to provide evidence of spaying and neutering them,” Lucas said. “And the whole purpose of that, obviously, is so that you’re not just taking the animals and just sort of exacerbating the problem, and they’re out there repopulating again… She hasn’t complied with that for a long period of time.”

Imari Scarbrough is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News and Press.