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:
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.