WILSON, N.C. -- The owners of 'For the Love of Dogs' are seeking more time from the state to make necessary repairs at their nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter in Wilson, NC.
Della and Max Fitz-Gerald have operated the shelter for more than 20 years, however, this year they've run into issues getting their registration renewed.
The shelter has not passed the last few inspections from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The department requires shelters to pass inspections for their registrations to be renewed.
"The inspection staff is trying to ensure the animals in a shelter facility are receiving humane care. Humane care is defined as the provision of adequate heat, ventilation, sanitary shelter and adequate food and water, consistent with the normal requirements and feeding habits of the animals, size, species and breed," the department's website states regarding these inspections.
"They care and want the animals taken care of and we care and want the animals taken care of. So we agree on that. Our situation right now is they have given us a timeline to get things done and in all honesty, there have just been barriers after barriers after barriers," explained Della Fitz-Gerald.
She said COVID impacted their volunteers, but they've also had financial issues.
"Max and I put thousands of dollars into the dogs and sometimes things just don't get done that do need to be done, structural improvements, do need to be done," Della Fitz-Gerald said. "We are just turtles on getting it done."
Four inspections this year repeatedly found the shelter out of compliance for multiple items ranging from buildings maintenance to sanitation.
An inspector in April wrote, "Not enough employees/volunteers to adequately execute daily operations.- Owners state they are trying to find someone but have been unsuccessful to this point."
Another inspection noted, "The continuation of unsanitary conditions, due to the inability to adequately perform daily operations in the Gray Building, is grossly evident."
The state also sent a warning letter in May and noted 23 issues including inadequate ventilation, animal waste not being adequately removed, and fly infestation.
The May letter said if the shelter did not correct these actions by June 30th, its registration renewal application may be denied. The shelter did not pass the latest inspection on July 5. The inspector wrote, "corrective actions have been inadequate, incomplete, or not addressed at all."
"We just don't have that many funds left. We're done this for 25 years. Our funds are getting very thin," Della Fitz-Gerald said.
The Fitz-Geralds said recently they've gotten their sewer system redone thanks to a donation by a local business. They said that will eliminate a lot of the sanitation issues they had. They've also started getting help from a neighbor for some of the building maintenance needs.
They also said they've worked with the Wilson Human Society to reduce the number of dogs they have.
"That gives us less worry about all the dogs because at one time we had 70 dogs. We're down to about 50 right now because of them helping us which is totally awesome. We are really trying to do everything under the sun we can," Della Fitz-Gerald said.
They said the need to shelter dogs in the area has just increased as more people have fallen into financial hardship. The couple worries that without their shelter, some of the dogs might be killed at other shelters if they go unadopted.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture said the shelter had until last Friday to respond to a letter of intent to not renew their shelter registration. The department said it will take their response into consideration for whether their registration is renewed.
The Fitz-Geralds said they don't know what will happen next. They hope the state will come back out this week and look at their improvements. In the meantime, they are encouraging anyone who is able to donate time or money to get in touch with them through their website.