Suits cite conditions at animal shelters

IRVINE — Two concurrent lawsuits were filed Wednesday in Estill and Robertson counties by people who say the counties failed to provide basic, humane conditions for stray dogs and cats at local shelters.

According to the lawsuits, both filed in circuit courts, the animals who are cared for in the facilities live in filthy conditions that violate the state's Humane Shelter Law.

The plaintiffs are seeking restraining orders to keep the counties from violating the shelter law and temporary and permanent injunctions to ensure compliance.

The Estill County suit was filed by Angelika Kasey, a Louisville resident who has worked with the Estill County Animal Shelter.

Kasey says in her lawsuit that the Estill shelter is inadequate for the stray dogs and cats that rescuers collect from Estill, Jackson, Lee, Owsley and Wolfe counties.

“The County provides virtually no support for the animals who are housed in the Facility, despite its statutory duty to do so,” the lawsuit states.

In 2007, the shelter took in 2,100 dogs and 500 cats, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit says 66 dogs and 16 cats were euthanized on a single day that same year.

Estill County officials acknowledged that there are some problems in the county's shelter, but deny that the animals live in the squalor described in the lawsuit.

“I think for a small, rural county we have a pretty darn good animal shelter,” said Estill County Judge-Executive Wallace Taylor, who is listed as a defendant in the suit along with fiscal court magistrates Greg Hall, Darrell Johnson and Gerald Rader.

The second suit was filed by Robertson County resident Toni Penrod. Her suit names as defendants several county officials, including Judge-Executive Billy Allison and magistrates Melvin Dee Whitaker, David Conley, Larry Jones, Diana Poe and Terry Cracraft.

Penrod said in a news release from the non-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund that the Mount Olivet shelter in Roberston County is “a primitive wooden shack where dogs endure searing heat in summer and freezing temperatures in the winter and lie amidst their own excrement on dirt floors that flood during rainstorms.”

The lawsuit says “the wooden shack” which is used as a shelter does not meet the standards set by the Kentucky Legislature when it adopted the Humane Shelter Law. It also says very few dogs are adopted in the county because the “shack” is inaccessible and the facility hours are not clearly known to the public.

Robertson County officials did not return calls for comment.

Both Kasey and Penrod are represented by Katie Brophy, a Louisville attorney who works with the defense fund.

Kasey and Penrod ask in the lawsuits for the courts to force the counties to comply with their duties to the stray animals under the Humane Shelter Law, which was adopted in 2004 to provide more protection to stray and abandoned companion animals.

In her suit, Kasey says that the Estill facility is infested with vermin, insects, fleas and ticks. She also says that there are not enough kennels in the inadequately ventilated shelter.

The lawsuit also states that the county “routinely kills adoptable dogs and cats before the expiration of the statutory five-day holding period.”

Officials close to the shelter deny those claims.

Ellen Frederick, an animal rescuer who has worked with the Estill shelter, said nothing out of line has been done to the animals in the facility. She said any tick and flea infestations come from the animals they bring in that are not well cared for.

There are currently 60 dogs and about 20 cats housed in the Estill shelter, Taylor said.

The shelter was expanded to double its original size about four years ago, he said.

Frederick said the shelter's employees and volunteers do the best job they can.

Filing a lawsuit is “just plain not right,” she said. “I don't know why everybody picks on that poor little place.”

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