Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 13, 2013

Attorney, Greenup Fiscal Court get testy about animal shelter

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

GREENUP — Greenup Fiscal Court on Tuesday had an at-times testy encounter with an attorney specializing in animal-welfare issues.

Kathryn Callahan of Louisville read a report to the court on what she said was a number of problem areas that have been identified at the county animal shelter.

According to Callahan, a group of sheltering experts visited the facility in February with the goal of making recommendations on how to bring the shelter into compliance with state law and how to approach the care of animals as best practices. The group issued a report in March, which was sent to Judge-Executive Bobby Carpenter, she said.

While acknowledging some improvements had been made — such as dismantling the “gas chamber” that was previously used to euthanize unwanted animals — Callahan said “little progress” had been made “in significantly improving the conditions and services at the shelter.”

Among the major problem there, she said, was animals not being vaccinated upon intake at the shelter, which leads to the spread of diseases.

“Puppies are leaving the shelter sick, and, in many cases, dying,” she said.

For example, Callahan said, out of a recent group of 40 puppies that left the shelter, only two of them survived. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of a quarantine area for animals that are obviously ill, she said.

She also said rescue groups outside of Kentucky had contacted her “outraged” over animals coming to them from the shelter with illnesses such as parvo, lyme disease and distemper.

Callahan — who said she worked with animal-rescue organizations and animal-rights activists, but was not representing any one person or group — also criticized the county over what she called a lack of transparency, in particular rescue representatives not being allowed into the kennel area “to obtain adequate photographs and other information needed for networking animals to their final destinations in a timely manner.

“I don’t mean this as a threat in any way, but when people and groups have been shut out of a shelter, there has been litigation that has followed,” she said.

“Well, it’s a good thing we’ve got a county attorney to handle those sorts of things,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter acknowledged the county had a policy of not allowing people into the kennel area unless accompanied by a staff member because of concerns over liability in the event a visitor being bitten by a dog. He also said prior to that rule being instituted, it was chaotic there, with people running in and out of the kennel area all the time with no supervision.

However, Carpenter said he’d spoken to shelter staff and been told they had no problem with allowing visitors to take whatever pictures of animals they needed.

Carpenter and shelter manager Doug Jordan also said steps were being taken to ensure animals are vaccinated when they come into the shelter. He said multiple doses of a 5-in-1 vaccine were on order and should be arriving soon.

While allowing that the county had work to do at the shelter, Carpenter told Callahan conditions at the facility had been vastly improved from what they were five years ago when the county purchased the facility, located on Ky. 2 at the top of North Fork Hill, from Don and Nora Grubb, who operated it as a private shelter under contract with Greenup, Carter, Elliott and Johnson counties.

“I’m not going to sit and listen to you downgrade us,” he said. “It’s (the shelter) 110 percent better now than when we bought it and we’re making improvements every day. Of course, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to satisfy you people.”

Commissioner Tony Quillen said the county was working to upgrade the shelter, but, at the same time, had other pressing issues involving the needs of people to deal with and only so much money to go around. He said trying to keep everyone satisfied was “a juggling act.

“We have made progress,” Quillen said. “Maybe not enough to satisfy you ... “

“ ... or the law,” Callahan interjected.

Carpenter also said the county had been working closely with Kentucky Humane Society Director Pamela Rogers to bring the shelter up to that organization’s standards, and “The last time I talked to her, she was happy” with the progress that had been made in that regard. Callahan, though, disputed that, citing a March 25 letter to from Rogers to the county outlining a number of deficiencies at the shelter.

 KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2654.