Bringing Fresh Ideas To Animal Control

Hopes to see spay, neuter become a priority

Harnett County has a new animal services director. Holli Hargrove took over the program at the end of October and is looking forward to improving the agency and moving it forward.

There’s a new face at the head of the Harnett County Animal Control Services, one who brings fresh ideas and a hope of expanding one of what she considers to be the most important elements of pet population control: spaying and neutering.

Holli Hargrove comes to Harnett County after serving as administrative services officer for the county of San Luis Obispo, California, Animal Services. She also brings background that includes serving with several agencies such as supervisor of volunteer services for the Tony LaRussa Animal Rescue Foundation. Hargrove, who was introduced to the Harnett County Board of Commissioners during their Monday meeting, left practicing law behind to work in the animal rights field.

“It’s my passion,” she said. “I see great opportunities for trying to move this county into more modern sheltering ideas and ways to do things.”

When asked why she left California to come to North Carolina, Hargrove said she was ready for the change, to be closer to her family and to make an impact on Harnett County Animal Services.

“I think there is an opportunity to make a lot of great changes in this county and to be a model for the state,” Hargrove said. “My experience, thus far, is very different than what I was exposed to in California as far as animal welfare laws and programs and such.”

One of the first areas she wants to tackle is the spay and neutering of animals before they leave the shelter. Hargrove also wants to offer more opportunities to expand the program beyond the walls of the shelter.

“I’d like to come up more resources to offer the community’s citizens to get their animal spayed and neutered,” she said. “I would like to have programs for the community cats in this area and I would like to build a volunteer program and other programs for the animals in our shelter.”

Hargrove just took over the role at the end of October and is trying to get a full understanding of all the laws, programs and other factors that go into running a shelter and animal control program in North Carolina. She said it’s a different situation than the one she came from in California.

“I’m still trying wrap my head around all the laws and stuff, because they are very different, spay and neuter isn’t mandatory and things like that,” she said. “So, I’m discussing with the county what my options are, trying to figure out what my resources are in this state and go from there and try to get funding to make some of these things happen.”

The new director says the spay and neuter program is probably one of the most glaring issues to address as she begins her time with Harnett County. Her background in animal welfare has taught her it is one of the best starting points.

“Just being in animal welfare, you want to reduce the population and you can’t if they aren’t spayed and neutered,” she said. “Our officers spend a lot of time going out trapping cats, so that’s one example (for the need to reduce the population).”

One thing Hargrove appreciates and wants to look at is the efficiency of the services to residents in the county. She knows it’s a fairly large area to cover and the animal control officers have a large job to meet the needs of the county. Whether its trapping stray animals or responding to complaints, Hargrove says the goal is to make the agency as efficient as possible as soon as possible. She also admits like everything else, it does take time to achieve the goal. She says it’s possible, but it will take some time.

“That’s something I’m striving for, just trying to make everything more efficient,” she said. “The more efficient and the more organized you are, then the better your resources are used.”

One of the biggest challenges Hargrove feels she’s facing is the change in culture and animal control laws between California and North Carolina. She says things she’s used to having as mandatory in many cases, is no longer that way in North Carolina. Which leads to it’s own challenges.

“Just coming from a state that had a lot of things that were very mandatory that had to be done, it’s a different culture here,” she said. “And a lot of the laws are written that things aren’t necessarily mandatory. That makes them a little bit more of a challenge to implement.”
One caveat she’s aware of because of non-mandated programs is how to pay for them to put them into action. Hargrove said finding funding is key.

“Especially if the funding isn’t there,” she said. “You have to go find it and justify the need for that. I just don’t want to jump right in and say let’s do that. I realize just because it worked one place doesn’t necessarily mean it will work at another place.”
Hargrove said she believes communication within the animal welfare community is another key to finding successful programming which does work and keeps working over the course of time.

“It’s really about trying to get out there and talk to the community and other animal welfare leaders in this state to find what has worked in this area, what hasn’t worked in areas like this and to learn from their mistakes.”

When you ask Hargrove why she gave up practicing law for animal welfare, she says it was really an easy transition with plenty of heartfelt commitment. She said after volunteering she knew what she really wanted to do with her life.

“I would sit at my desk and realize I had more passion about going out into the community and volunteering,” she said. “I felt like I made more of an impact doing that than just sitting at my desk, doing paperwork. So I think it was just what I was meant to do.”

-Dunn Daily Record