From Hell Hole to High Regard: Changes at Chesterfield Co. Animal Shelter

CHESTERFIELD CO., S.C. – It started in 2011, the day Chesterfield County Animal Shelter volunteers discovered shelter dogs and cats, shot in the head and dumped in an unpermitted landfill. WCCB investigated extensively, uncovering one problem after the next. Besides the unlawful shooting of animals: one county employee’s criminal background. The unauthorized possession of firearms. And virtually non-existent record keeping of schedule II narcotics.

No one was sure what would happen here. The county council took shelter control from then-Sheriff Sam Parker. And put it in the hands of an outsider. “It’s been a heck of a ride and it’s worked out really well,” says Jim McGonigal.

McGonigal stepped into the Chesterfield Co. Animal Shelter when frustration was high and expectation were low. The shelter had a high 90 percent kill rate. Under his leadership, it now has a high 90 percent save rate. And, five years after those dogs were found shot dead in a landfill, the shelter that once didn’t even have walls, is now a one million dollar facility.

WCCB News @ Ten anchor Morgan Fogarty asked, “What is the thing you’re most proud of?” McGonigal says, “The community support. Because in the beginning, it was very hard.”

McGonigal downplays his impact at the shelter, but those around him do not. Shelter manager Rebecca Davis says, “Without Jim, and the staff he put in place, the animals would still be suffering here.”

Volunteer David Johnson, “Whoever literally takes his place is gonna have huge, huge shoes to fill.”

Fogarty asked, “Who do you credit with all of this?” Volunteer Casey Maynor replied, “Jim. Absolutely. Jim McGonigal.”

The shelter veterinarian, Dr. Nicki Taylor, says McGonigal leaves behind inspiration. She says, “I firmly believe that if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.”
McGonigal agrees, but downplays the successful program he created: “The model we use here, this can be used anywhere. This is not rocket science,” he says.

He, again, credits the community, animal rescue groups, even the media. His leadership at the shelter comforts the community, and as he steps away, he promises to stay close. Just in case. He says, “The people here locally got involved and they said enough is enough, this is wrong. We’re making these changes. And that’s what they did. And that’s what I think is fantastic.”

McGonigal’s last day is May 1. He will continue to live in Chesterfield County, with his wife. So far, there is no word on his replacement.