By Charlotte Underwood / Staff Writer
Representatives from several animal rescue groups approached the Laurel County Fiscal Court on Thursday about gaining access to the county animal shelter in order to help decrease the number of animals euthanized in the county. Attorney Kathryn Callahan spoke to Judge Executive David Westerfield and magistrates about the shelter and the benefits of allowing rescue groups to help adopt animals out and prevent “unnecessary euthanasia.”
“Your shelter has the opportunity to do great things with the help of these rescue groups,” Callahan said. She pointed out to magistrates that only four percent of the animals coming into the county shelter were leaving alive.
“So you feed them, house them and then kill them and dispose of the bodies at the landfill and all for a fee. All of this comes out of the tax payers pocket,” Callahan said, explaining that allowing the rescue groups access would decrease the county’s cost of running the shelter. She cited as an example another county that had a 99.9-percent euthanasia rate, but worked on it and dropped the rate down to below the national average by allowing rescue and foster groups into the shelter.
“We have seen dramatic impacts on shelters who allow these groups to come in and help,” Callahan said, explaining that she was asking the fiscal court to allow as many legitimate rescues into the shelter to pull animals for adoption at no fee, or a small one.
“These rescues go in, pick up these animals and transport them north. They do this because they have stricter spay neuter laws and those animals are wanted up there,” Callahan said.
Callahan informed the magistrates that she had walked through the shelter.
“And I must tell you there are issues that need to be addressed. Kentucky law has specific things that need followed such as requirements that there is identification of the owners when an animal is brought into the shelter, otherwise there is potential liability,” Callahan said, explaining that neighbors that get disgruntled over animals will sometimes turn in someone else’s dog.
Stephanie Fields, who is the president of Homeward Bound Canine Rescue and Rehabilitation, also addressed the magistrates about allowing rescue groups into the shelter. She provided documentation that the shelter had sold a dog for cash money, without the dog being processed into the system.
“I know there were questions that you all had about my credibility and that I had no substantiations to the allegations that I made about the animals at the shelter being sold for cash money and animals being euthanized that were microchipped and their owners had not been informed,” Fields said, as she handed folders to each of the magistrates and Westerfield.
Her documentation provided showed that in November 2012, Gary M. Barnby, an Oneida resident, was told a dog had been surrendered only 15 minutes before he arrived at the shelter to view the animals for adoption. According to the paper signed by Barnby, the animal shelter employee offered to allow him to donate $20 to adopt the dog by not processing the dog and not going through the usual adoption process.
“All I am asking is to be able to go into the shelter to help,” Fields said.
Westerfield spoke in defense of the county, saying that the magistrates had discussed it and decided to allow her rescue group to work with the shelter but that she had not returned his phone calls.
“In our defense, we were going to work with you. I have made numerous calls to you. I asked you to call me, we were going to work with you and you only, that is what the court had decided,” Westerfield said. “We are trying to get this started in the right direction and you showed the most interest and you have the facility to handle the dogs, which is why we wanted to work with you.”
He asked if she could “sit down” with him later in the day to explain what the county’s intentions were as far as working with the rescue group. He also addressed the possibility of policy violations at the shelter.
“I spoke with my county attorney a few minutes ago, and any state policy that we are in violation of, let him know and we will fix that,” Westerfield said.
State law does not require that rescue organizations be allowed into county animal shelters.
Callahan asked once again what the possibility would be to allow other rescue groups in as well.
“I will meet with Stephanie this afternoon and we will go from there,” Westerfield said.
Other business handled during the meeting included the reappointment of Tom Handy and Ed Parsley to the London-Laurel County Tourism Commission for a three-year term, which will expire in the summer of 2016. The appointment of Dr. Wajdi Kfoury to the Laurel County Health Department Board for a four-year term that will expire in 2017 was also approved.
New business discussed included the approval of jail cell refurbishing bids and the approval of courthouse restroom repair bids.
“We will start with the men’s restroom; it has really got dilapidated,” Westerfield said, adding that the cost would be $28,800 to cover a total of four restrooms.