KY Study Exposes Troubling Failures at Municipal Shelters

Warning:  Toward the end of this post, there are some graphic photos which may be disturbing to some readers.

In 2004, the state of Kentucky went from an Anything Goes type of attitude toward animal control facilities to a Well, Not Literally Anything Goes view with the enactment of the KY Humane Shelter Act.  Counties were given 3 years to comply with the new law.  It covers the bare bones of humane treatment for shelter animals, which is to say, probably most of the animals won’t end up as bare bones if the facilities provide at least these minimums.  Provisions in the law include:

  • Cages big enough for the animal to stand up, turn around and lie down in
  • Clean cages with adequate protection from the elements
  • Clean food, daily
  • Clean water, always
  • Provide sick and injured animals with veterinary care or kill them
  • Maintain basic animal records such as dates, coat color, whether the animal was reclaimed, adopted or killed
  • Provide quarantine areas for rabies hold cases
  • Be open to the public at least 24 hours per week with hours posted so visitors can see them

As noted in the recent report issued by the Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine, there are a number of shortfalls with the law.  Namely, there are no inspections to determine if any of the 90 county shelters in the state are in compliance and it falls upon private citizens to file a lawsuit against any facility believed to be operating outside the law.  In fact, no one has apparently ever checked to verify that the state’s shelters are meeting the law’s very basic requirements for animal care.  So the vet school conducted a study to determine the level of compliance throughout the state.  Below is my summary of some of the findings:

  • Only 17% of Kentucky’s shelters were determined to be in complete compliance with the Humane Shelter Act.  Approximately half were failing to meet 3 or more of the law’s provisions.
  • 7% of shelters were either possibly or definitely not feeding the animals daily.
  • 11% of shelters were either possibly or definitely not providing clean water to all animals.
  • 6% of shelters kept no records on the animals.
  • 5% of shelters housed animals in cages too small for them to stand up or turn around.
  • 73% of shelters were over capacity with multiple animals per cage.
  • 12% of shelters were either closed to the public or open less than 24 hours per week.
  • 22% of shelters did not have hours posted.
  • 10% of shelters housed animals in a closed room with no air circulation.
  • 24% of shelters were either possibly or definitely not providing heat for indoor housing areas in winter.
  • 37% of shelters kept animals in dirty cages.
  • 42% of shelters had no quarantine area.
  • 23% of shelters did not take cats.

The study does not include a statistic on how many of the shelters provided vet care but does reference the lack of vet care as a problem:

A KY shelter puppy in obvious need of veterinary care (Photo from the Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine study)
A KY shelter dog in obvious need of veterinary care (Photo from the Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine study)
KY shelter kittens in obvious need of veterinary care (Photo from the Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine study)

Bearing in mind how low the bar is for KY shelters – feed and water the animals, put them in proper sized cages, clean the cages, write down “brown male dog” on a card, etc. – it is completely unacceptable that any of the state’s shelters are not meeting these most basic requirements. What’s worse, with no mandated monitoring or enforcement, the burden of attempting to hold non-compliant shelters accountable falls to the taxpayers who are already footing the bill for these failing facilities. I hope the study will be useful for animal advocates trying to drag the state forward on these issues. In the meantime, animals are suffering in KY shelters and will continue to suffer while staff gets paid to not do their jobs.

(Thanks Clarice.)


18 thoughts on “KY Study Exposes Troubling Failures at Municipal Shelters

    1. I’ve always thought I’d be good at shelter evaluations because I am generally useful doing that type of work. But pretty much every time I read a shelter evaluation, I come to the same conclusion: I could not do it. I understand the premise is to observe, record and evaluate in order to improve things in future, which will hopefully help many animals, but there is no way I could not intervene to help the animals there NOW.

    2. That one kitten is very obviously dead. I can’t say about the ones in the litter box, but there is no food or water in that cage.

      Which makes me want to punch someone very hard in the face.

      And makes me wonder, “Why?” Why are conditions so poor? No money doesn’t equal no water. It doesn’t even equal no food if you hustle for it. In this day and age, you can get people from around the freaking world to donate to your cause. If you care enough to make the effort.

      So… why?

  1. The one in the litter box is dead. The one on the floor of the cage is dead. This really makes me want to kick somebody’s fat ass.

  2. What can be done to help the animals? This is absolutely criminal that they suffer like this. Is there anything we can do to shut these places down?

  3. Why doesn’t H$U$/ASPCA send some of their millions to help figure out what to do to improve things in these low standard/income shelters? Why aren’t retail rescues doing something? Why aren’t all the animal rights fanatics doing something? Right…cause none of them actually care. Shutting this shelter down will mean that these animals will still be suffering somewhere else.

  4. It is obvious that Kentucky animal shelters need a complete overhaul – these pictures are very disturbing and the national organizations such as HSUS, ASPCA should be stepping in and putting up some of their massive resources instead of sticking that money into their CEO’s pockets – THESE ANIMALS DESERVE BETTER.

  5. It is obvious that Kentucky shelters need a complete overhaul – low funding is no excuse for overflowing litter boxes, dead and untreated animals being left as is, this is despicable treatment for innocent animals – I do agree that HSUS and the ASPCA should step up and help BUT if people got off their butts and volunteered instead of complaining maybe things would improve. Apparently those in authority at these hell holes are allowing this cruelty to continue and need to be fired – you don’t need a Master’s Degree to run a shelter, just some kindness, compassion and the ability to hire competent people.

    1. If you are waiting for any of the big “animal welfare” organizations to step up, you’re going to have a very long wait. Most are more interested in making money and creating media campaigns to bring in even more money than really saving animals.

    2. ” … BUT if people got off their butts and volunteered instead of complaining maybe things would improve”

      Well, my local county shelter does not allow volunteers. Ever.

      And many places are so restrictive/abusive to volunteers (like letting you foster kittens, only to return them and have them summarily killed “for space”), that effective volunteering is impossible.

      Sometimes the only avenue left to you is advocating for change… which I suppose is seen by some as “complaining”.

  6. If the Humane Society of the U.S. and ASPCA care so much about helping suffering animals, why then are they not stepping up to help these failing shelters???

Leave a Reply