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home : opinion : opinion September 30, 2020

12/22/2015 12:04:00 AM
Regarding The NC Dept. Of Agriculture's Investigation Of LCAS

The revelations that emerged last week regarding the NC Department of Agriculture’s investigation of and subsequent penalties against Lincoln County Animal Services were not breaking news to anyone who has been paying attention over the last few years.

Despite County Manager Kelly Atkins’ recent assertion that the investigation was simply a “shot in the dark” attempt by a rogue humane group intent on filing complaints against every animal shelter in hopes “that upon investigation they [might] find stuff,” the citizens of this county know that is just not true. The five failures cited by the state were not minor infractions or technicalities, and local volunteers have been vocal about these exact issues for years, most recently at the November 2015 County Commissioners meeting. The video of the meeting is public record:  When that footage is combined with the quotes to the media made last week by county officials, it is easy to see the leadership failure extends from top to bottom.

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This state of affairs, with officials pointing fingers to deflect attention away from their own inaction, is disappointing considering that Lincoln County is poised to be a frontrunner in the state due to its forward-thinking legion of animal welfare advocates who refuse to stop until the shelter is transformed into a safe place for animals to land while they wait for new homes. Hundreds of volunteers for Helping Animals to Survive (HATS) have worked tirelessly to assist the county in implementing the 11 steps of the No Kill Equation, and they are more engaged than ever in their collective desire to help the shelter. The Humane Society of Lincoln County recently surpassed the 10,000 spay/neuter mark, and the work of those volunteers has reduced the number of animals that enter the shelter. Most citizens are unaware of the remarkable local, state and national effort by rescues that are actively pulling animals from LCAS and arranging fosters and transports to placements here, there and everywhere. All of the pieces we need for long-term success are in place.

It is important to understand that three sitting County Commissioners (Patton, Martin and Mitchem) were part of the unanimous No Kill vote two years ago, yet the county is nowhere close to achieving that goal. Lincoln County is not a No Kill shelter. The Board members did not vote to think about the No Kill Philosophy or to try it – they voted to adopt it. The complacency the Board demonstrated at the Nov. 2015 meeting, patting everyone on the back for snail’s pace progress, was mind-numbing for those who know anything about the No Kill Equation. The vast majority of No Kill shelters implement all 11 elements of the program within six months. Killing animals is revenue negative; adopting animals is revenue positive, in addition to being the right thing to do. County leaders have had the tools in hand for the past two years. The proven strategies and best practices of the No Kill Equation have worked all over the country at shelters just like LCAS. We do not need more money. We do not need additional personnel. We do not need a new shelter or even an expansion. We just need leaders who will implement the best practices of the No Kill Equation without making excuses.

The good news is that there is a primary election in March, and three County Commission seats - a majority - are available. A few hundred votes will change the course of the primary. Luckily, the people in Lincoln County who care about animals are not just measured in the hundreds; we are measured in the thousands. The key is for us to organize. The Humane Voters of Lincoln County has reactivated for precisely that purpose. Joining is free, and your political affiliation is entirely irrelevant. Start by liking our Facebook page: “Lincoln County Humane Voters.” Then use the message function to send the name and mailing address of every registered Lincoln County voter who lives with you. If you are not registered to vote, the process is easy. The voter registration form can be accessed at You can also learn more about the HVLC’s current efforts at We will provide you with periodic action alerts, which are quick ways for you to devote a few minutes to making a phone call, sending an email or casting a vote. The HVLC is now vetting candidates in order to keep citizens informed about their positions on humane issues.

As a taxpayer, it is my expectation that county leaders are constantly working to keep us ahead of the curve. As long as we stand by and accept mediocrity or, worse yet, turn a blind eye to long-term systemic failures, our hard-earned tax dollars are wasted and shelter animals die. Remember the taxpayers of Lincoln County will pay the state’s $7,500 fine, despite the fact that we were already paying county leaders whose job it is to work proactively to keep the shelter on the right side of the laws and guidelines that govern it.

We can do better. The county leaders who are not interested in doing better or who are incapable of doing better are thwarting our tremendous potential, and after two years, it is time for them to get the memo or step aside.


Ashley Oliphant, Ph.D.
Founder, Humane Voters of Lincoln County
Denver, NC

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