The Most Resourceful Shelter Director I Know

February 27, 2024

I’m pretty sure Maureen, the director of Anson County Animal Shelter in Polkton, North Carolina (about an hour east of Charlotte) is the most resourceful shelter director I know.

Between applying for grants, appealing to local businesses, picking up the unused donuts at Krispy Kreme (for dog treats), and flat-out scavenging, she will find a way to get the resources she needs for the animals in her care.

She’s blessed to have an active Friends of the Shelter group headed by Chris and her daughter Jess, who both volunteer at the shelter doing pretty much anything that is needed whether that is cleaning kennels, driving transports, training dogs, or helping with the daily enrichment efforts.

As Maureen showed me several rooms full of shelves stacked with supplies, holiday decorations, food, treats, toys, and labeled bins of pretty much anything you could imagine you might need at a shelter, she told me, “They say I’m a hoarder, but you never know when you might need something.” Luckily, she’s also an organizational mastermind.

Maureen doesn’t hesitate to ask for donations pretty much everywhere she goes. As she sees it, the worst that could happen is they’ll say no. But, clearly, not many people do. In the front lobby is a beautiful kissing booth created from a large wooden fruit container, and somewhere in Maureen’s organized closets, there is a repurposed kiddie car they painted and decorated for Christmas photo ops. In the outside play areas are multiple plastic Adirondack chairs that were thrown away at the end of the season. The dogs prefer lying in them to the Kuranda beds sitting beside them.

Thanks to efforts from the Friends group, a grant from Petco, and the generosity of a local car dealer, the shelter was able to purchase a large transport van. After they purchased it, the owner of the car dealership even generously retrofitted the van with HVAC for the cargo space, an interior liner, and a gorgeous wrap.

Maureen and Jenny (a kennel attendant and righthand person for Maureen) drive that van full of community animals and shelter animals twice a week for spay/neuter and veterinary services in Cabarrus County. The loading, driving, and unloading (and the same in reverse) take three hours, which means that at least two times a week, two staff members spend six hours of their day making sure community animals are spayed and neutered at low cost.

The shelter also offers community vaccine clinics where the staff vaccinates and microchips the dogs for free (or at minimal cost if there are more than two animals per family). Because this is North Carolina, three staff members are certified to give rabies shots.

Maureen’s resourcefulness (and help from the Friends Group) has led to the creation of a Community Pet Food bank at the shelter.

Very few animals are adopted out locally – just sixteen of the nine hundred they took in last year. Everything else is moved out through rescue. The shelter does not charge a pull fee and provides free transport. They will go pretty much anywhere to deliver a dog to safety. They once drove a dog to Duluth, Minnesota.

Maureen says the key to her success in placing dogs for rescue is that she is 100% honest and transparent about her dogs. She tells every potential rescue everything she knows about each dog. I think her over-the-top willingness to help other struggling shelters also helps – generosity often boomerangs right back at you.

When we visited, the shelter was full of medium and large dogs of the overly exuberant ilk. Most would be labeled pit bull type dogs—not easy dogs to place. Jenny told me that they might look wild, but there wasn’t a kennel anywhere in the shelter that she was afraid to enter.

The staff and volunteers work hard to make life good for the dogs. And not just because North Carolina regulations require that any dog (or cat) held at a shelter for more than thirty days must be given daily enrichment activities. They keep a logbook documenting that effort for the state inspector to see, but also to note what works and anything they learn about the animals through enrichment.

They are always looking for new ways to provide enrichment and spoil their dogs with special events, like a Valentine’s dinner. The dogs were served spaghetti and meatballs (just like in Lady and the Tramp) and strawberry muffins. (check out the shelter’s TikTok to see some of their fun)

Considering that the dogs that come through Anson shelter are not what I’d call ‘easy pulls’ (meaning small or desirable breeds), it’s even more impressive that the Live Release Rate for Anson is somewhere north of 98%. I asked how they make the decision to euthanize and Jenny explained that Maureen has to make the call, but she conferences with her entire staff for their thoughts on each dog, and sometimes brings in a second opinion (from another shelter professional) before deciding. Clearly, they don’t give up on a dog easily.

I asked what Maureen needed, and she shared that she’s been trying to find a 40-foot shipping container that they could place behind the building to store food. They need a large space that is climate-controlled, and the two small sheds they have are not secure, climate-controlled, or free from pests. A big shipment of food arrived while we were visiting, and we watched the staff stack it in their kitchen area.

She’d also like to put down turf in the outdoor play areas (they are currently gravel). She was able to get one roll of turf donated, but still needs another.

Much has changed since the last time I visited in 2018 when the building was crammed with dogs and Maureen was more or less on her own, just getting started running the place. Beyond the bright paint, Dean Russo prints, and holiday decorations (Maureen goes all out for the holidays), there is a new roof, they’ve had mold remediation, newly sealed floors, an added playyard, a TNR program, community food bank, and lots of enthusiastic volunteers who believe in the dogs (and cats) they are sheltering. On this visit, the shelter was bustling with people. Maureen’s parents (who drive transport and help in a million ways) were there, plus staff, and volunteers. There is a festive air to the shelter (and not just because of the over the top holiday decorations).

And Maureen? She’s the same (although I’m sure she’s learned plenty since then) – she’s an incredibly resourceful, determined, advocate for the dogs in her care and the community who threw them away. She is proving that it’s possible to save every saveable dog.

I hope that her efforts through spay/neuter (she recently got a 25K spay/neuter grant from a local foundation, Giving with Grace), TNR, a community food bank, education, and the Friends of the Shelter group (20-25 strong), they will change the story in Anson County. If they can reduce intake and increase community engagement, hopefully, those local adoption numbers will start to creep up and reduce their need for rescue.

I know Maureen is resourceful, but if you’d like to make her job a little easier, consider shopping the shelter’s Amazon wishlist

Until each one has a home,


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Learn more about what is happening in our southern shelters and rescues in the book, One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues (Pegasus Books, 2020). It’s the story of a challenging foster dog who inspired me to travel south to find out where all the dogs were coming from. It tells the story of how Who Will Let the Dogs Out began. Find it anywhere books are sold. A portion of the proceeds of every book sold go to help unwanted animals in the south.

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1 Month Ago

Have the shelters and rescues you work with connected to It is a tech platform designed to connect shelters and rescues with transporters and fosters.

Cara Achterberg
1 Month Ago

I haven’t heard a lot about Doobert in recent years. It’s a brilliant idea and we do have information about it in our resource guide. Maybe it’s time to check back in with Doobert. Thanks for the reminder.

Naomi Johnson
1 Month Ago

I am so glad you went back to see Maureen at Anson. Yes, she is amazing. She (as well as her staff, family, and volunteers) works so hard to save the dogs and cats in her care. She is such a wonderful person. Last year she spent several days at a near-by shelter helping with a terrible outbreak of parvo. Her workday is often “30 hours long” because, after she finishes work at the shelter, she may then get in the van and drive a load of dogs up north . I really admire Maureen for all the great things she has accomplished at Anson, which had an unbelievably high euthanasia rate and was a dreadful shelter before she became director. Thanks for all you do, Maureen.

Cara Achterberg
1 Month Ago

We completely agree! I remember meeting her five years ago when she was just getting started and wondering if she would last and if there was anything one woman could do. Wow, did she deliver. She’s an inspiration.