SPCA, animal shelter top county's agenda

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By Calen McKinney

A worker at a pet food bank in Louisville has said Taylor County SPCA members aren’t responsible for the county not qualifying to receive free food for its animal shelter.

Taylor County Animal Shelter was again a topic of discussion at this month’s meeting of the Taylor County Fiscal Court on Tuesday night.

Louisville attorney Kathryn M. Callahan, who attended the meeting with SPCA members, said she brought a letter to Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers and magistrates from Susan Saunders of No Kill Louisville Pet Food Bank.

Callahan said there has been a lot of discussion about the shelter receiving free food from the food bank, and the letter was written to clarify some information that was said incorrectly at a recent meeting.

She said the county was never promised any free food and was told that certain actions must be taken before the county could qualify to receive the food.

Callahan said someone, who is not a member of the SPCA group, contacted and asked her to look into the conditions at the shelter. She said she is hopeful that she can meet with County Attorney John Bertram soon to discuss the shelter.

Rogers, Bertram and magistrates were given copies of Saunders’ letter. There was no discussion about it.

The shelter and SPCA have been discussed at several Fiscal Court meetings during the past two years.

During the last discussion in September, the SPCA group told magistrates that an open records request it sent to the shelter hadn’t been completely fulfilled.

In response, Rogers said the county wasn’t trying to hide anything and that the SPCA group has cost the county about $10,000.

Also at that meeting, Rogers said the county paid for a truck bed to be added to a vehicle so employees could travel to Louisville to receive free pet food from an agency there. However, he said, photos taken at the shelter were sent to the Louisville agency and the group said, as a result, it won’t give the county any free food.

SPCA President Harry Reif responded by saying the group did not send any pictures of the shelter to the agency in Louisville.

According to Saunders’ letter, she is in charge of the food bank and occasionally gets requests from shelters and other groups about donating food to them.

She wrote that John Harris, the director of Taylor County’s shelter, contacted her about the county receiving some food.

On July 5, according to the letter, Harris and Rogers came to the food bank and received 2,500 pounds of food that had been donated by Blue Buffalo.

Saunders wrote that Harris and Rogers were told that food is donated periodically, and that the county might or might not receive future donations.

She wrote that she told Harris and Rogers about the Mars/Rescue Bank program that also helps provide food to shelters. That program requires shelters to complete an application for the food to see if they qualify to receive it.

The shelter completed an application, Saunders wrote, and it was forwarded to her for approval.

“As I commonly do with new applications, I conducted an Internet search on the animal shelter and discovered a newspaper article about the shelter and allegations about dogs being buried alive.”

After several months of investigation into those allegations, the shelter was cleared of any wrongdoing.

“I also contacted people associated with animals in Kentucky for information about the shelter. I did not know anything about Taylor SPCA and did not talk to anyone associated with that organization,” Saunders wrote.

During the Internet search, Saunders wrote, she found a photo of several kittens being housed at the shelter in an outside wire cage.

“Based on the conditions of the shelter shown in the photograph and on other information, No Kill Pet Food Bank did not approve the application for food.”

Saunders wrote that she sent shelter staff an email stating that the application hadn’t been approved in part because it didn’t meet housing requirements.

She wrote that she told Harris that the denial could be appealed and suggested that someone inspect the shelter.

“Several people, including a member of the No Kill Board of Directors, have visited the shelter, and some improvements have been noted,” she wrote.

Based on the improvements, Saunders wrote, she was willing to approve the county’s application for free food, though that would be contingent on the shelter moving forward with more improvements.

Saunders wrote that she received a newspaper story with incorrect information about the free food program and asked Harris to correct those statements.

She wrote that a No Kill Louisville Board of Directors member found a story that stated that SPCA was being blamed for supplying the photo of kittens she saw.

“They did not,” she wrote. “I asked John to publish a clarification because no information was received from Taylor SPCA that resulted in Taylor County Animal Shelter being turned down and the information in the article was so incorrect. I still have not been notified that a clarification of the facts was indeed published.”

The CKNJ has not been asked to clarify information in the story about the free food program.

After the meeting, Rogers said he hasn’t read the letter, and as such, can’t comment on it.

• For more from Tuesday’s meeting, see Monday’s issue.