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Shelter is topic of public meeting

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By Calen McKinney

 

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After each picture, the 100 people strong crowd reacts with sadness and anger.

The words “What part of humane is this?” flash across the screen.

The photos, allegedly taken at the Taylor County Animal Shelter, show what Taylor County SPCA members say are poor conditions, including male and female cats housed together, cats with no food or water, dogs bleeding in cages and more.

“What does it take to make this change?” appears, and the slideshow ends.

Taylor County SPCA and several local animal rescue groups hosted a community meeting on Monday night to discuss conditions at the animal shelter.

Many of those who attended have participated in two protests at the shelter in hopes that their efforts will influence magistrates to keep the shelter open as an adoption facility.

Magistrates agreed on Tuesday night to contract with Adair County to house the county’s stray animals. See a separate story in this issue about the magistrates’ meeting.

Linda Garner of Taylor Made Rescue moderated Monday’s community meeting, which was open to the public.

She said local rescue group members have witnessed inhumane treatment of animals at the shelter and decided to speak up.

“They couldn’t keep it in anymore,” she said.

Garner said the complaining about the conditions has upset some people and, as a result, they have said there will be no more adoptions at the shelter.

Garner said she believes closing the shelter to adoptions is a bad and hasty decision.

“And defies all logic,” she said.

Garner said the meeting is to let the community know about the rescue groups working to help find stray animals homes.

“We do not have to shut down our shelter,” she said.

Harry Reif, Taylor County SPCA president, told the crowd how the group got started again and how it has requested open records to examine how the shelter is running.

“Many doors have been shut in our face,” he said.

Reif announced that magistrates voted earlier that night to transfer Taylor County Animal Shelter Director John Harris to the County Road Department. The news was followed with applause.

Reif said the SPCA’s long-term goal is to open a no-kill animal shelter and operate it on its own.

He said the SPCA built the shelter about 30 years ago. But in 1999, former Taylor County Sheriff John Shipp began operating the shelter and Harris was hired as director.

Reif said he has received records from the shelter and found many animals aren’t accounted for.

Harris and Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers have denied that animals are “missing” from the shelter.

Reif said it has been implied the SPCA has cost the county $100,000 by requesting open records, which he denies.

Rogers said at a recent meeting that the county has spent $100,000 at the shelter during the last few months, but didn’t say the SPCA was the cause.

Reif said the SPCA members have been accused of bullying their way into the shelter to take photos of conditions there, which he denies. Rogers said the SPCA members were at the shelter at 7 a.m. one morning and forced their way in.

“We maybe stepped through a door they didn’t want us through,” Reif said.

Reif said conditions at the shelter aren’t adequate and state law is constantly violated there. And even though the SPCA’s actions have angered some people, he said, the group hasn’t wavered in its stance.

“It will not stop,” he said. “It’s just growing stronger and stronger as it goes along.”

Kathryn Callahan, a Louisville animal welfare attorney who has become involved with the shelter after being made aware of the accusations made against it, said she encourages the community to not give up on its shelter.

She said she encourages people to form an organized effort to lobby to keep the shelter open to the public.

“I’m going to find out as much information as I can,” she said.

Jessika Rash, one of two organizers of the two protests at the shelter, asked how the community can hold those at the shelter responsible for the conditions there.

Callahan said residents should continue to question what goes on and never give up. An audience member later encouraged people to hold those responsible when casting their votes in the next election.

Kat Winter of E.L.L.I.O.T. Rescue in Campbellsville said she became involved with the shelter after seeing the conditions there.

“Everything deserves a chance to be treated right. To live, love, feel compassion,” Winter said.

“They were all sick and dying. And nobody gave a damn. Nobody cared.”

Winter said she encourages the community to stay involved.

“This has got to stop, you guys,” she said. “It can not be allowed to go on. You guys, this is your community. This is your animals dying ...

“These are officials you elected. Eddie Rogers works for you. Change it. Because if you don’t, there’s going to be more Georges. We’re just not going to be able to see them.”

George is a name given to an animal who died at the shelter.

After rescue groups became involved with the shelter, Garner said, it became the fourth best shelter in the state for its adoption rate.

“I’m saddened that Fiscal Court took credit for that. Shame on the Fiscal Court. These women got these dogs out.”

At a Taylor County Fiscal Court meeting earlier this month, Rogers said since last July, the shelter has taken in about 1,800 animals and euthanized 263. About 1,200 to 1,500 of those are animals from Taylor County.

“That’s a pretty good percentage that we’ve saved,” he said.

Jo Wuertenberg of Taylor Made Rescue in Campbellsville said there are many people willing to help animals and many who are uneducated as to how do to that.

“I don’t have that much money but every extra penny I have goes to these animals,” she said.

She said rescue groups have sent animals to new homes as far away as Canada, California and even Nova Scotia.

“There’s so many dogs. They make your heart smile. There’s just no other way to put it,” she said.

“We don’t want the shelter to close. We want it to stay open. We want to help.

“And we can. But you have to be transparent with us. There’s no reason for hiding something, unless you’ve got something to hide.

“It just doesn’t make sense to shut us down and not let all the resources we have to help you.”

Karen Dickson of No Kill Louisville, Ashley Shelburne of Tyson’s Chance rescue group and Bridget Case of Misfit Rescue group also spoke to the crowd.

Dickson, Shelburne and Case all encouraged Taylor County residents to continue to fight for their shelter and animals.

Rick Murphy, an animal activist, spoke to the crowd about bills currently being discussed by state legislators that would make the state’s animal cruelty laws stronger. Watch for an upcoming story about those bills.

Throughout the night, accusations were made that shelter staff members and some of the county’s elected officials have been negligent in overseeing the shelter and were called derogatory names.

Those officials have publicly denied similar accusations in previous meetings.

Reif said he invites anyone to join the SPCA. For more information about the group, visit its Facebook Page.