County seeks new animal shelter director

Sago: Davis fired for failing to “meet goals and objectives”
Davis: “I was good for that place”

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

The director of the Richmond County Animal Shelter was terminated on Monday for failing to “meet goals and objectives (set) for her during her probationary period.”

Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis

Davis was notified on Monday, Sago said.

Hired May 1, 2013 at a salary of $31,305, Davis was charged with overseeing the county’s assumption of shelter operations as the county assumed ownership and control of the shelter on July 1, 2013, from the Humane Society of Richmond Society. The nonprofit organization was short on funds to keep the facility operational.

Sago said Davis, 37, was aided in her duties by Lori Tadlock, the county’s director of Human Resources. Tadlock said in November 2013 that while some advocated the shelter follow the no-kill method, she was quick to remind the public that “it is a business.”

Tadlock, Sago said, “is very versed in our personnel policy and trying to help get employees on the right track as far as following policies that are in place for various departments,” Sago wrote in an email to the Post. “She had been working with the shelter staff since October 2013 with their organization, personnel management, time management and financial management skills. Her role will not change.”

According to data provided by Richmond County government, 52.9 percent of animals taken in between Jan. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30 were euthanized.

According to data provided by Richmond County government, 52.9 percent of animals taken in between Jan. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30 were euthanized.

Sago said the county’s relationship with the Humane Society of Richmond County also will not change. Since July 2013, society employees and volunteers have been in charge of working to ensure as many animals as possible were adopted or sent to rescues.

The society, Sago said, recently hired a new part-time worker to fulfill that mission and “she is doing a great job … steadily helping to get animals a home.”

Sago said he also has reached out to Allison Sweatt, director of Richmond County Animal Advocates. Sweatt, he said, “has also done a great job of helping us find shelter animals homes, making sure that we are on the same page moving forward. Richmond County is willing to work with any person or group that has the best interest of the animals as their goal.”

He said the commissioners agreed to take over shelter operations in July 2013 and “to run the shelter in accordance with all applicable rules and laws and work with the Humane Society or anyone else to get the animals adopted, rescued or fostered; that mission has not changed.”

Sago said the search for a new shelter director will begin immediately. The county authorized the posting of the job announcement on PeeDeePost.com and other outlets on Thursday.

“As far as a timeframe for a new director goes, it depends on the number and quality of the applicants we get,” Sago said. “Obviously, we would like to find someone as soon as possible.”

 Davis: Charges are “bogus”

Davis’ departure comes with no small amount of animosity. In short, she didn’t get along with Sago or Tadlock, who she said is now acting shelter director.

Her termination wasn’t necessarily a surprise, Davis said — nor the timing of it. But the reasons given by Sago in a two-page letter on Monday were “bogus.”

Davis figured it had everything to do with a dog that was euthanized on Friday. The dog, named Roscoe, had been an owner surrender and had been aggressive towards shelter staff, including multiple attempts to bite them. By law, Davis said, there was no reason to wait to euthanize the dog, a pit bull. But she wanted to give the dog a few days in hopes that he’d adjust to shelter life long enough to find a home.

That was Oct. 17. By Oct. 21, Davis said Roscoe still hadn’t settled down. That day, however, the owner called the shelter to see if she could adopt her own dog back. Davis said yes. That was Tuesday. The owner said she’d be there no later than Friday, Oct. 24 to pick him up.

On Oct. 23, Davis went him sick just before lunchtime. Before she left, however, Davis said she made sure Roscoe’s kennel card — a document affixed to the front of each cage showing each animal’s particulars, including status — was there. She was in utter disbelief then when, on Friday at 3:52 p.m. — still home sick — she received a text message that indicated Roscoe had been euthanized.

“I was livid,” Davis said.

Protocol and policy had somehow been breached. Davis said she’s the only one authorized at the shelter to decide whether or not, and when, to put an animal down. But that’s not why her termination came as no surprise. It was, Davis said, what took place afterward.

In an attempt to help keep the grief of the dog’s owner to a minimum, Davis decided to tell the woman that Roscoe had simply escaped from an outdoor kennel. There was no bringing Roscoe back, Davis figured. Why put the dog owner through the pain?

“It wasn’t about covering my butt,” Davis insisted. “What good could come out of breaking that lady’s heart?”

On Saturday, Davis said Sago rang her at home and gave her a very loud earful.

“Rick was screaming at me,” Davis said.

Davis felt blitzed. She felt sabotaged. And she was preparing to go on the offensive.

“I had intentions of going in Monday and firing three people for this,” Davis said.

That never happened. Late Monday afternoon, Davis said she was told to meet with Sago and Tadlock. Roscoe was never brought up. Instead, a two-page letter summarized all the errors Sago and Tadlock had compiled during Davis’ tenure at the shelter but especially since October 2013, when Tadlock was appointed to assist Davis with personnel issues at the shelter.

As Davis was still on probation — on April 22, Sago opted to extend her probationary period — Sago was not obligated to provide a reason for Davis’ termination. But he provided plenty:

* Money is consistently in to finance after 10 a.m.;
* You do not complete your time sheet accurately;
* Last month you sent in a report that did not reflect true numbers;
* Follow through of tasks, such as employee training and employee vaccinations;
* Management of staff, including — part-time staff working full-time hours, full-time staff having too many hours of comp time, holiday time and furlough time, paid a secretary to be on-call during a weekend and paid her overtime to work that weekend;

There was more. Plenty more:
* Animals are being given too much food by your staff;
* Some of your staff has not been following local and state policies and procedures;
* With a Parvo breakout, reports were not being given in a timely manner;
* With a Parvo breakout, you did not have a certified euthanasia tech working during the weekend;
* Euthanasia books and Katamine and Xylazin mixture books have not been kept in accordance to protocol;
* Complaints from staff that you make them work after they have clocked out;
* Population control;
* Kennel cards — on-site visit on Sept. 11 there was 49 percent of your animals that did not have kennel cards attached.

On Thursday, Davis said each of those issues could be explained — and that just about none of it falls on her.

“Most of those things on there are not true,” Davis said.

She blamed Sago for allowing, and Tadlock for creating, an atmosphere in which shelter employees didn’t know to whom to answer, her or Tadlock.

Davis also said she expressed a number of concerns to Tadlock, as her human resources representative, but was not satisfied her concerns were being listened to.

“If I had a problem with her, who do I go to,” Davis asked. “(Sago) took my human resources (representative) away … it’s a weird situation.”

Prior to taking on the role of shelter director, Davis was a substitute teacher and worked in pet grooming for 18 years. Davis said she’d been active with a number of pet rescues over the years.

By the numbers

Sago provided a summary of the monthly reports submitted by Davis from January through September this year. Sifting through the data, the numbers reflect that 2,335 cats and dogs were taken in by the shelter — through owner surrenders or those brought in by the city, the county or other, including 1,563 dogs and 772 cats.

And in those nine months, 52.9 percent of them were euthanized. Sago said that is normally due to injury, illness or overpopulation. Sago said data before January 2014 was not available because the county, which took over the shelter in July 2013, didn’t begin receiving monthly reports until then.

The number of cats and dogs put down is telling — but, currently, impossible to compare to the days before Davis took over, when the Humane Society of Richmond County ran the shelter.

Davis acknowledged the numbers don’t look good — but things were getting better. The number of animals euthanized was on a downward slope, she said, and the number of animals adopted, fostered or rescued were on the rise. Plus, Davis said, the working relationships between various animal advocacy groups in the county, state and region that had been strained for months were finally getting back on track, with a focus on the best outcome for the animals.

“Everything was going right,” she said, after months of hard work, “but they didn’t care about that.”

Davis said Tadlock and Sago cared only about the bottom-line — the budget and overpopulation.

The operation of the shelter, Tadlock said in a November 2013 interview, “is a business.”

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News

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  • Pam Hogan

    Sounds like they were out to get Davis. Most of the things on that list looks to me like someone trying to make the best of a situation where things are being made harder than they should be. Biting my tongue on personal opinions of others mentioned.

  • Charlene Singletary

    Tadlock stating that the shelter “is a business” and Sago’s note indicating “animals are being given too much food” says it all. Living creatures aren’t a business and the goal of every shelter should be no kill. Davis was able to get a donation of cans of cat food that totalled in the thousands and the animals should be well fed. When Valerie was running the shelter, the poor animals had been fed no more than one cup of food per day and the dogs we adopted were malnourished according to the vet. They were also afraid of hands and feet near them and any objects in hands and had to be taught they would not be hurt to avoid aggression issues. If that’s what Sago finds acceptable, it’s his job that should be in question.

  • Alice Kaulfers

    It seems there has been another “witch hunt” at the shelter and this time Rebecca Davis was tried and convicted unfairly. It is clear Rebecca is being blamed for an increase in shelter kills. How convenient it must be to put blame on an individual at election time instead of taking responsibility for the actions and/or inaction of Public Works. I believe Bryan Lands is in charge of the Public works department. I believe the common verbiage used was kill them all and let God sort them out. Rebecca was the Director, she did not create the rules Lands, Sago and the county did. We also can’t blame her for the animal population, how many are deserted and brought in by animal control. When orders were given to put animals down it came from the powers in charge not Rebecca Davis personally. Rebecca worked side by side with employees, volunteers and several animal advocate agencies to improve situations at the shelter. She was not just a Director, she was a volunteer, an advocate, giving hours and hours of her personal time, for the betterment of the shelter and the animals position. Rebecca Davis was an incredible asset to the animal shelter, a person with heart for people as well as the fur babies.

  • Daffy

    With numbers like these animal control is on the ball. Great job. Strays are bad for any community. Keep up the good work.

  • Teresa Grant

    Just rehire Ms. Davis….I do believe that the county will not even come close to finding a person to run the shelter as well as Ms. Davis did…She has done a awesome job with with funds that were available for her use for the welfare of the animals, staff and facility …Thank You Ms. Davis for all you have done for all the fur babies, some people just don’t get it that you truly cared and was trying your best to make a difference.

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