The Haven-Friends for Life threatened with fines for conditions at unlicensed animal shelter | News

The Haven-Friends for Life threatened with fines for conditions at unlicensed animal shelter

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For more than seven years, state regulators have threatened to penalize the Haven-Friends for Life, an unlicensed animal shelter in Hoke County that at times has kept more than 1,000 animals in deplorable conditions.

And for seven years, Linda Spear, owner of the Haven, has largely ignored—or done the minimum to stave off—regulators. Even after the Animal Welfare Section at the N.C. Department of Agriculture, stripped the shelter of its license, the Haven has continued to keep more animals than it can care for, regulators say.

Now the state is again threatening to levy civil penalties, up to $5,000 per infraction, on the Haven, according to a 2014 warning letter posted on the Animal Welfare Section website. This is at least the second time state officials have warned the Haven of potential civil penalties.
See related PDF WarningletterTheHavenFeb2014.pdf N.C. Department of Agriculture

The latest warning letter was prompted by a visit to the Haven in October 2013. six inspectors spent nearly an entire work day at the shelter and, according to the warning letter, found that “overall facility conditions are now worse than the conditions found on July 12, 2010.”

See related PDF haveninspection.pdf N.C. Department of Agriculture

And in 2010, conditions at the Haven were so bad  that the N.C. Attorney General’s office sent a letter to Spear’s attorney, William Van O’Linda Jr. saying the state agriculture department “has significant reason to question your client’s judgment and interest in animals’ welfare.”

The state also threatened to fine the Haven in 2010 but did not do so after regulators determined Spear was trying to improve the facility.
Spear told the INDY this week that the state is not interested in “quality of life” issues, only infrastructure, such as mandated amounts of gravel, concrete and fencing for the animals.

However, last fall, the state sent the Haven 33 pages of “action items” that needed corrected, and many of them dealt with the health and safety of the animals. In those notes, inspectors recorded that the fur of several dogs was matted; two dogs had untreated bite marks.  Several cats were ill. Water bowls had an “abundance of flies,” while some food containers were empty. There were also dozens of dirty litter pans and bags of trash and feces. Animals were stacked in cages. At least one building had no ventilation even though the temperature was 87 degrees.
See related PDF Havenactionitemlist2014.pdf N.C. Department of Agriculture

Animals were also housed in the barn, which inspectors deemed “a hazard to the health of the animals and the workers.” Spears had been told in 2010 not to keep animals in the barn; at that time she told inspectors that arrangement was “temporary.” Animals were also kept in the barn in 2007, when the INDY visited the Haven and published a story about the conditions there.

Spear countered that the inspectors arrived at 8 a.m., before the morning cleaning had been done. “Nuclear power plants and hospitals don’t go through the inspections we do,” she said. “A no-kill shelter never gets credit for exceeding standards. Legally all we have to do is give a rabies vaccine. We microchip and have a veterinarian on staff. We get no credit for that.”

Penny Page, spay/neuter coordinator for the Animal Welfare Section, was among those inspectors. She told the INDY that as of last week, Spear has reduced the number of animals by nearly a third, to 600. However, inspection reports show the Haven has a pattern of increasing the number of animals after brief decreases. In 2007, the Haven had 1,100 animals. Since then, according to inspection reports, the Haven has had as many as a total of 1,310 dogs and cats (October 2009) to as few as 236 cats and 364 dogs during a count conducted by the state last week.

While Spear has expanded the Haven to add catteries and kennels to accommodate more animals, inspection reports show the additional buildings are in disrepair.  Spear said she does not have enough money to tend to the buildings. 

Since 2008, the Haven has generated $1.2 million in revenue, although funding has dropped off since 2010, according to tax documents.
A nonprofit, the Haven took in $164,000 in 2012. The cost of running the facility was $178,000, leaving the Haven with a $13,000 deficit. See related PDF haven_tax_return_2012.pdf Internal Revenue Service, guidestar.org

Spear has repeatedly said that if she doesn’t take in the unwanted animals they will be euthanized. However, large “no-kill” shelters also enable irresponsible pet ownership. The Haven and similar operations become tantamount to a dump for owners who can’t or don’t want to care for their pets.Spear also pulls animals from local shelters and brings them to the Haven..

Facility owners can face civil penalties, such as fines, or depending on the severity of the case, be charged with animal cruelty. However, those allegations can be difficult to prove, and unless animals are in immediate danger, the cases, such as the Haven, can be drawn out for years.

Logistically, Page acknowledged that if the state were to close the Haven there is nowhere to put 600 to 1,300 animals. Shelters and rescues are already overcrowded with unwanted pets.

“The problem with shutting the place down is that we don’t have the facilities [for the animals],” Page said.




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