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A decision by Kentucky Humane Society in late December not to renew its contracts with Trimble and Henry counties has left both entities in a lurch.
In letters sent to Trimble Judge-Executive Randy Stevens and Henry Judge-Executive John Logan Brent, the Louisville-based KHS said it would no longer operate the Eminence shelter, nor would it provide animal-control services in the two counties once the contracts expire June 30.
Cara Hicks, KHS public relations manager, said Tuesday that the decision not to renew the contracts is not based on monetary issues, but rather is part of a “strategic decision to narrow our mission.”
Hicks said KHS is working to strengthen what she calls “proactive” solutions to the issue of pet overpopulation, such as spay-neuter programs, adoptions and educational programs.
“We are happy to assist in any way we can with the transition,” she said. “It’s not our intent to leave anyone without animal-control services.”
With less than six months to find a solution, Stevens said he and Brent have met to discuss the best course of action for the two counties.
“There has been a lot of brainstorming and a lot of ideas, which is good, and I suspect we will have a lot of people who want to have input,” Stevens said in an interview Monday. “There are a lot of interested entities wanting to be involved.”
Stevens said he and Brent have discussed the idea of obtaining state grant money to build a shelter in southern Trimble County. He said Republic Services has offered to provide land for a shelter on buffer land next to the Valley View Landfill.
The site, he said, would be more conveniently located for both counties, and he said Republic has discussed the possibility of granting the land to the county.
“I think we would need about 2 acres to put up the right kind of facility,” Stevens said.
Stevens said the main issue is “keeping an eye on the end result,” in terms of providing the best service but also keeping operating costs as low as possible.
Under the KHS agreement, Trimble had a full-time animal control officer, access to a shelter and all required services for $55,000 a year.
Henry County paid $90,000 annually for KHS’ services, which included operating the shelter in Eminence.
During last Tuesday’s meeting of Henry County Fiscal Court, Brent said no solution will be easy or cheap.
The termination of the contract is absolute and apparently non-negotiable — but has nothing to do with money, he said.
“They do not want to contract at all,” Brent told the court, and indicated that there had been a change in mission at KHS.
Shelby County, Brent said, is not interested in helping Henry County with animal services at any price, and “Owen and Franklin are out of the question. ... “I have a call into the Oldham County judge-executive right now, and perhaps they might want to work with us.”
In an effort to address the impending problem, Brent appointed Magistrate Roger Hartlage to a committee to find a solution.
“I know it’s something you’re passionate about,” Brent told the new magistrate.
Brent and Stevens agree that the biggest challenge will be the cost associated with whatever solutions exist.
Brent said some critics of KHS felt the $90,000 amount for animal control in Henry was too high. “And I’ve got other counties that say they won’t take it on at any cost.”
The issue of animal services is the most difficult issues county governments face, Brent said.
State law mandates that counties provide animal-control services, but the state provides no funding in that area.
From Henry County alone, Kentucky Humane Society collects 600 dogs per year, according to Brent.
Haunted by flashbacks
Trimble County has a long history of partnering with Henry County for animal-control services.
A somber Brent said during Tuesday’s meeting that the December letter from KHS gave him flashbacks to controversy regarding Henry County’s previous shelter. In July 2002, just prior to Brent’s and Stevens’ elections, Louisville TV news stations reported on a video showing then-shelter director Ted Chisolm shooting and beating dogs to death rather than euthanizing them humanely.
The video had been posted to the Internet and a copy had been sent to PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals], which issued a petition to Henry, Trimble and Gallatin County officials to investigate and correct the situation.
At that time, the Henry County shelter housed dogs from Trimble and Gallatin.
The petition and news reports stated that animal control officials in all three counties, including Chisolm, had been trained and certified in euthanizing animals by chemical injection.
The incident led the Kentucky General Assembly in 2003 to ban the use of gunshot as a method for destroying dogs or other animals at shelters.
Stevens said Monday that one of his main goals is to get as close to being a “no kill” facility as possible.
“No kill,” generally, means no animals brought to a shelter are euthanized if they are adoptable. In true “no kill” shelters, only animals that are too sick or too badly injured to survive – or those determined to be dangerous or aggressive – are euthanized.
Jonna Spelbring Priester is editor of the Henry County Local in Eminence, Ky., a sister paper to The Banner.