No-kill dog shelter in North Carolina faces closure after repeated violations


WILSON, North Carolina — The owners of “For the Love of Dogs” are asking the state for more time to make necessary repairs to their non-profit, no-kill animal shelter in Wilson, North Carolina.

Della and Max Fitz-Gerald have operated the shelter for more than 20 years, but this year they ran into problems getting their registration renewed.

The shelter has not passed the latest inspections from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The department requires shelters to pass inspections for their registrations to be renewed.

“Inspection staff try to ensure that animals in a shelter receive humane care. Humane care is defined as the provision of adequate heat, ventilation, sanitary shelter and adequate food and water, in accordance with the normal needs and feeding habits of the animal, size, species and breed,” the ministry’s website says of these inspections.

“They care and want the animals to be taken care of and we care and want the animals to be taken care of. So we’re fine with that. Our current situation is that they’ve given us a timeline for getting things done and in all honesty it just comes barrier after barrier after barrier,” Della Fitz-Gerald explained.

She said COVID had impacted their volunteers, but they were also struggling financially.

“Max and I have invested thousands of dollars in dogs and sometimes things aren’t done that need to be done, structural improvements need to be made,” Della Fitz-Gerald said. “We’re just turtles to do it.”

This year, four inspections repeatedly revealed that the shelter was non-compliant for several elements ranging from building maintenance to sanitation.

In April, an inspector wrote: “Not enough staff/volunteers to run day to day operations properly. Owners say they are trying to find someone but have been unsuccessful so far. “

Another inspection noted: “The persistence of unsanitary conditions, due to the inability to properly carry out daily operations in the gray building, is quite evident.”

The state also issued a warning letter in May and noted 23 issues, including inadequate ventilation, improperly disposed animal waste, and fly infestation.

The May letter said that if the shelter did not correct these actions by June 30, its application for renewal of registration could be refused. The shelter did not pass the last inspection on July 5. The inspector wrote: “corrective actions were inadequate, incomplete or not addressed at all”.

“We just don’t have as many funds anymore. We’ve been doing this for 25 years. Our funds are getting very thin,” Della Fitz-Gerald said.

The Fitz-Geralds recently said they had their sewer system redone thanks to a donation from a local business. They said it would eliminate a lot of the sanitation issues they had. They also began to enlist the help of a neighbor for some of the building’s maintenance needs.

They also said they have worked with the Wilson Human Society to reduce the number of dogs they own.

“It gives us less to worry about all the dogs because at one point we had 70 dogs. We’ve dropped to around 50 right now because they’re helping us which is totally awesome. We’re really trying to do whatever we can under the sun,” Della Fitz-Gerald said.

They said the need to house dogs in the area had just increased as more and more people were experiencing financial hardship. The couple fear that without their shelter, some of the dogs could be killed in other shelters if they are not adopted.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture said the refuge has until last Friday to respond to a letter of intent not to renew its registration at the refuge. The ministry said it will take their response into consideration to determine whether their registration is renewed.

The Fitz-Geralds said they don’t know what will happen next. They hope the state will come back this week and review their improvements. In the meantime, they encourage anyone in a position to donate time or money to get in touch with them through their website.


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