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County, SPCA at odds again

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By Calen McKinney

 

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The Taylor County Animal Shelter has once again become the focus of discussion between government officials.

On behalf of his organization, Taylor County SPCA President Harry Reif made a statement to magistrates at last Tuesday's regular Fiscal Court meeting.

In his statement, Reif said the SPCA requested some records from the shelter and hasn't yet received them.

He said the records the group has received are incomplete and the group continues to receive aversiveness from the county to give them the records requested.

"All that we are requesting is that the policies and procedures adopted by the Fiscal Court concerning the shelter be followed, and that is not being done."

Reif said male and female cats have been housed together, as well as have sick and healthy animals. He said the SPCA has been denied access to the shelter and an animal control board was disbanded just as soon as it was formed.

"It seems as though the attitude is that, if we are ignored enough, we will go away," he said.

Reif said the shelter appears to be a "money making business" and not an "animal-friendly business."

"We realize that many people are not concerned with the welfare of animals, but there are many more that believe that animals have a soul and are willing to stand up for their welfare.

"That is why we contact groups and individuals outside the county to help us in this struggle. We cannot find the answers we seek by asking for cooperation from our local government, so we must go outside to find those answers."

Reif said the SPCA won't give up trying to ensure that animals are being taken care of and that money is being spent wisely at the shelter.

"My hope is that things will improve. But that is up to you. Our concern is for the animals. If that means making some humans upset, so be it."

County Attorney John Bertram said the county received an open records request from the SPCA group in July and responded to it within the three-day limit. He said the wheels were then set in motion for the request to be fulfilled by the 30-day deadline as written in Kentucky law.

When records were given to the SCPA, Bertram said, members believed some were missing. He said he tried to arrange a meeting with the group at the shelter to see the records. However, he said, when he received a letter from an attorney on behalf of the SPCA group, he stopped his contact with the group.

Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers said the county isn't trying to hide anything. He said the SPCA group has cost the county about $10,000.

The county paid for a truck bed to be added to a vehicle, he said, so employees could travel to Louisville to receive free pet food from an agency there.

However, he said, photos of the shelter were sent to a group in Texas and, based on those photos, the Louisville agency has said it won't give the county the food.

"We've done everything possible to satisfy SPCA," Rogers said. "But SPCA is costing the taxpayers money right now."

Reif said the SPCA did not send any pictures of the shelter to anyone in Texas. Rogers said he knows the photos were sent from Kentucky.

Taylor County Animal Shelter Director John Harris said adoptions at the shelter are up. Nearly 200 animals were adopted or taken to one of about 40 rescue groups during the month of July and August. About 85 animals were euthanized.

"We have come a long way and we got a long way to go," Harris said.

Rogers said the shelter is not a money-making business.

"You've got your voice and I've got my voice," he said to Reif. "What you're saying is not true."

Last Thursday, Harris said the shelter makes no money from adopting animals. He said veterinarians are paid with the $100 adoption fee and the remaining money goes toward paying for medications for animals.

"We're not making money," he said.

The county gives the shelter $48,000 a year to operate with, he said, which doesn't include salaries. The cost to operate the shelter is more than that, he said, and the county has to pick up the difference.

Harris said Taylor County residents Jolene Wuertenberg and Sheila Martin have helped the shelter work with various rescue groups. He said the SPCA group is welcome to come to the shelter.

"They're welcome to come out here any time they want to," he said.

Reif said on Thursday that the SPCA group will continue to request records from the shelter to see if they are being completed correctly.

He said the group has not hired an attorney. An attorney wrote a letter to the county after a recommendation from the Humane Society in Louisville. As of last Thursday, he said, all the records requested in July have still not been received.

"The shelter is doing a much better job than six months ago," he said.

Reif said animals at the shelter are, for the most part, receiving the care they need. He said record keeping still needs improvement, however.

"We feel like it should be 100 percent open," he said.

Reif said he doesn't know who sent pictures of the shelter to Texas.

"It wasn't us that caused this problem," he said. "It seems to me that they violated the statute."

Reif said SPCA members will continue to check up on the shelter.

"We're just asking that it become a quality shelter."