BRUNSWICK | Barbara Sancomb has eight rescue animals at home, paw prints tattooed on her wrist and has driven a dozen dogs to Maine at her own expense to escape the death sentence that they faced here.


She’s a self-avowed animal lover, but as part of her duties as kennel officer at the Glynn County animal shelter, it falls to her each Thursdays to put unwanted animals to death by lethal injection.

It’s a burden she does not bear lightly.

Talking about it causes her voice to quiver and tears to roll from her eyes.

“They learn to trust me while they’re here,” she said, “and they’re not afraid. They go peacefully, but it breaks my heart.”

Sancomb, along with veterinarian Bill Disque, reacted this week to the criticism and vitriol heaped upon the county’s Animal Services department for months now — and upon them personally — by animal advocates intent on achieving no-kill status at the shelter.

Critics have charged the county with inhumane treatment of the animals in its custody and deplorable conditions at the shelter. They’ve taken aim at Sancomb and other staffers on social media and it hurts, she said.

“They call us names on Facebook,” she said. “Completely derogatory. I don’t even read it anymore. They act like they’re the only ones that care, but I have to tell you, they’re not. It’s not the big paycheck that keeps me here.”

Also, she said, the critics are feeding the public false information.

“Everybody who criticizes us, they have obviously never been to a bad animal shelter because this is a really good one,” she said.

Around noon on Friday, the shelter was a busy place, with staff and volunteers tending to the animals and arranging adoptions. The kennels were relatively clean, with a distinct but not overpowering odor hanging in the air.

“This is how it is every day,” Sancomb said. “It’s a lot messier when we come in at 8 o’clock in the morning, but we clean it up every day.”

The shelter has been a public relations nightmare for the county. Earlier this year, Animal Control Advisory Committee Chairman Marci DeSart released startling statistics describing the shelter’s euthanasia rates. Since 2006, 18,000 dogs and cats have been put down. DeSart later was ousted from her spot on the committee by the County Commission, which said she was running roughshod over staff and overstepping her authority.

The no-kill movement gained traction when Commissioner Bob Coleman began to advocate for it.

A town hall meeting he called last month drew a couple of hundred animal advocates in favor of no-kill including DeSart and members of No-Kill Glynn, an organization she co-founded. No one spoke against it.

But Disque, a retired vet who spays and neuters animals at the shelter several times a month, said there’s a silent majority in the county who realize no-kill is not an achievable goal as things stand now.

“There are a lot more homeless animals than there are people willing to adopt them,” he said.

Disque said people are to blame for the pet problem in Glynn County.

“The root of the problem is a lack of responsibility and accountability of pet owners,” he said.

Sancomb points to kennels at the shelter that hold dogs left unattended by owners and free to roam the streets. Other animals face death merely because it became inconvenient for their owners to tend to them and they turned them in to the shelter. There’s no means to force accountability on the owners.

“We have to take everything that’s brought in,” Sancomb said.

There will have to be a cultural change, as well as an infusion of cash and a firm commitment from a whole lot of people if the county’s shelter ever is to attain no-kill status, she said.

“There’s no alternative,” she said. “We do what we can to get them out of here, but when you take in 3,000 animals a year, it’s just not possible.”