County, cat rescues seeking adopters, fosters and donations

Published 11:09 am Saturday, December 9, 2017




The numbers were down, until they weren’t.

That’s commonplace at the county-run Betsy Bailey Nelson Animal Control Facility in Washington. One day, there are few animals; the next, there are many. Such was the case this week, when animal control staff retrieved 34 cats from a single property. They were “owner-surrendered,” a misleading phrase, because the definition of “owner” refers to anyone who has an animal in their possession for more than 72 hours. According to officials, this particular owner never asked for the cats to begin with — instead, he lives at the end of a dirt road where people dump unwanted cats, and unspayed and unneutered cats tend to multiply.

“Then they’re overwhelmed, and they can’t feed them,” said Animal Control Chief Billy Lassiter.

Separately, another 12 cats were dropped off at the shelter this week. Right now, the shelter is at capacity with 41 cats. With only two cages left, any other cats will have to be turned away, according to Animal Control Officer Sally Midyette.

“We have a massive amount of cats that have come in, and that can be typical for us, and we are asking for help,” Hedgepeth said. “The sheer number that is coming in is a losing battle.”

Ultimately, that loss could equate to putting animals down. On Friday, Lassiter, Midyette, Animal Control Officer Josh Clayton, Beaufort County Director of Emergency Services Carnie Hedgepeth, Humane Society of Beaufort County President Marty Poffenberger, DVM, and Teresa Woolard, with the Facebook-based E.N.C. Shelter Cats rescue organization, met to discuss how to get these animals out of the shelter before there’s no other option.

On the shelter’s part, Midyette is evaluating the health of the animals and determining which ones can be put up for immediate adoption. Woolard and E.N.C. Shelter Cats’ Stephanie Braddy had already arranged to have five cats out by Friday night and on a midnight transport to another rescue organization. Poffenberger said the Humane Society will be expanding its monetary assistance for spaying/neutering cats going out to rescues — assistance usually reserved for animals adopted from the shelter.

“The Humane Society is going to help pay for those that are rescued. It’s above what we normally do,” Poffenberger said.

Also above what they, collectively, normally do, is ask for the public’s help: in donations, in adoption and in fostering.

“If they want to adopt at the shelter, or want to help foster or donate to the cats they can go to E.N.C. Shelter Cats,” Poffenberger said.

“If they’d like to help the shelter, we need plenty of cat litter,” Lassiter said.

Their recommendation is to donate money to HSBC or E.N.C. Shelter Cats: Humane Society will help pay for spaying/neutering the cats; E.N.C. Shelter Cats will assist with that, as well as other vetting and transportation needs to get the cats on their way. Those of the mind to donate cat litter, should donate the clay, non-scoopable variety.

Another one of their recommendations, as a group, is responsible pet ownership.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Beaufort County Animal Control Officer Sally Midyette and E.N.C. Shelter Cats’ Teresa Woolard hold near identical cats brought into the shelter this week. Midyette is currently assessing health and identifying which cats are immediately adoptable. Woolard and E.N.C. Shelter Cats has already arranged rescue for five of the cats currently in the shelter.

Lassiter said animal control typically responds to around 700 animal complaints a year, many of them people calling for help because stray cats they were feeding have had litters of kittens. They can no longer afford to feed them, nor can they control the growing population because they don’t have the money to spay/neuter.

However, there are options for help to prevent a population explosion. To the owner who brought three sick kittens into the shelter this week, Midyette suggested he bring the mother cat in to the shelter, and told him about the S.N.I.P. program, which covers the surgery cost of spaying/neutering pets for those receiving public assistance or low-income households. The state-run program is funded through special-interest license plates issued by the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, as opposed to taxpayer dollars.

Hedgepeth said the problem is a community problem. In the New Year, the primary focus will be a countywide spay/neuter campaign, in hope of preventing future overpopulation — overpopulation of the shelter leads to euthanization. Also in the New Year, a new part-time county employee, hired solely to act as a liaison between animal control staff and rescue organizations, will be working during the shelter’s nonpublic hours to facilitate the rescue process.

For now, county staff, Poffenberger and Woolard are asking people to adopt, foster and donate to help the cats in the shelter.

“It’s when everything else fails that an animal gets euthanized. This has failed; that has failed. I use that word, failed, because that is what’s happening: all these things failed. And it starts with the owner: responsible pet ownership,” Hedgepeth said.

For more information about the Humane Society of Beaufort County, call 252-946-1591, email or visit For more about E.N.C. Shelter Cats, visit the page on Facebook. The Betsy Bailey Nelson Animal Control Facility is located at 3931 U.S. Highway 264, Washington; 252-946-4517.