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A year later, shelter doing 'best we can'

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By Calen McKinney

 

It's been about a year since magistrates decided to no longer house animals from other counties at Taylor County Animal Shelter.

And since then, officials say, changes have been made to see the shelter become even better than it used to be.

Last year, allegations were made claiming the shelter wasn't operating as it should. Protesters stood at the shelter with homemade signs proclaiming that the shelter wasn't clean and animals were not being treated properly.

The shelter was often the talk at Taylor County Fiscal Court meetings. Discussion eventually culminated with a vote to no longer house animals from other counties. Magistrates also agreed to cut the shelter's budget and keep a close eye on spending there.

Since then, Taylor County Animal Shelter Director Jacob Newton says not having so many animals at the shelter has helped his employees keep it clean and find new homes for strays.

"It's more easy to find a permanent home for them to go," he said.

Newton said shelter staff members will still accept animals from other counties, but there is a $20 fee for that. He said that has deterred people from dropping animals at the shelter.

Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers said he believes the changes made at the shelter have only improved it.

"Overall, I think we're running a good shelter, like we've always run."

Shelter staff are using a new building, Rogers said, which was paid for with grant money, and are staying well within budget.

"The new facility has upgraded our ability to help keep disease away," he said.

Newton said the adoption rate at the shelter is up and the euthanasia rate has decreased dramatically. Rogers agrees.

"We want to adopt as many out as possible," he said. "We try to get the animals back to their owners."

Since Newton replaced John Harris as director about a year ago, Newton said, the shelter has euthanized animals only once for overcrowding. He said nine animals were euthanized. Seven of them were sick, he said, and the other two were mean.

Before magistrates voted to only house Taylor County animals, Newton said, shelter staff members sometimes had to put two animals in each cage. That isn't the case now, he said.

"We're nowhere near that."

And having more room to house animals, he said, means his staff members can keep them considerably longer in an effort to get more adopted.

"We keep them a lot longer," he said. "One we have now we've had for two months."

Since the beginning of the year, Newton said, there have been about 600 animals come to the shelter. About five to 10 are brought in each week.

Animals that come to the shelter must be held for five days before being eligible for adoption, Newton said. He said he then requires the animals to be available for public adoption for five more days before rescue groups can take the animals to foster homes and other facilities.

Newton said several rescue groups work with the shelter on a regular basis and, so far, that arrangement has worked well.

"We're trying to make everything as easy as possible."

When animals are adopted or taken to a rescue group, he said, the county saves money, animals aren't euthanized and there is more room to house stray animals.

"It's a win-win all the way around," he said.

Newton said the shelter stays at under capacity and he likes it that way.

"Because you never know what you're gonna get in," he said.

And with fewer animals, he said, staff members spend less time cleaning and feeding, which means the county saves money on chemicals, food costs and salaries.

Since the adoption fee has increased to $100, Newton said, it was discussed that people might not want to pay that much for a pet. However, he said, the fee comes with a voucher for a spay or neuter operation, rabies and parvo shots, deworming, a microchip and 30 days of insurance. When compared to paying a lower fee and not getting those extras, Newton said, $100 becomes a more reasonable cost.

"People are slowly figuring that out," he said.

Newton and Rogers say there will likely always be people saying the shelter isn't operating as it should. But Newton says staff members strive to keep the shelter clean and its paperwork up-to-date.

Rogers said some of the accusations made against the shelter were proven false and the county was cleared of any wrongdoing when state officials investigated the shelter and the way it operates.

He said some residents complain when shelter staff members pick up animals that are running without a leash, which is against the law in Campbellsville and Taylor County.

"An animal is like a child to some people," Rogers said. "You wouldn't let your child loose, so you shouldn't let your animal run loose."

There are two full-time employees at the shelter, with one temporary full-time employee. Newton said there are some community service and Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program workers who also help. Volunteers are sometimes used, Newton said, though not often.

Newton said procedures and organization methods are constantly changing at the shelter so his operation can become even more efficient.

"Anything to make it more organized," he said. "Right now, we've got a good system. I think it shows."

And Newton said he believes that has translated to a better perception of the shelter in the community.

Rogers agrees.

"For people to say we didn't love these animals, we wouldn't have taken all the animals if we weren't trying to save them."

Newton says he enjoys his job and he and his staff members try to operate the best shelter they can.

"[We're] getting it all figured out and making the best out of it," he said.

"We do the best we can every day," Newton said. "If we go home knowing we did everything we could do, we're happy with that."