Feb. 01--The New Hanover County Sheriff's Office will assume control over the county's Animal Control Services on March 1, almost two months after the agency's former manager was fired.
County Manager Bruce Shell and Sheriff Ed McMahon announced the change Wednesday afternoon at a news conference.
Animal Control Services was part of the county's Health Department and was led for the past 12 years by Jean McNeil.
McNeil, who worked for the agency for 22 years, was placed on administrative leave Dec. 22 and fired Jan. 10. She has said issues stemmed from disagreements with Health Department Director David Rice.
McNeil appealed her termination to the Health Department's health board executive committee, but the committee upheld Rice's decision to fire McNeil. She can now choose to appeal that decision to the state's personnel commission.
But Shell said the organizational change was not a result of McNeil's firing. In fact, the transition has been in the works for several months, he said.
Capt. Ken Sarvis, who lead's the sheriff's office's support services division, will fill the role of the animal services manager along with other duties.
McMahon said Animal Control Services employees will keep their jobs and remain in their offices. He said the staff seemed excited about the change during a staff meeting earlier Wednesday.
Shell said the change was not a result of a poor reflection on the Animal Control Services agency, but was an opportunity to provide better services.
"The sheriff's deputies have authorities animal control officers don't have," he said. "To work within that organization will make us more effective."
McMahon said he wanted the agency to primarily work on helping animals get adopted.
The sheriff's division will continue to provide animal services, such as rabies education, vaccinations and registration.
Several other law enforcement agencies in the state also operate animal control agencies.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, for example, oversees the Animal Care & Control division, which responds to situations involving animals.
In Union County, a group of deputy sheriffs serve as animal services officers and enforce animal control ordinances
Shannan Bowen: 343-2016
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Copyright 2012 - Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.