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Half of Kentucky’s county animal shelters called substandard — and nobody’s watching

Trixie Foundation dogsleashes1

One day after basking in the nationwide attention the Kentucky Derby brings, Kentuckians woke up to the reality of how another species of animal is being treated by the state.

The Lexington Herald-Leader presented a package of stories addressing the often poor conditions in the state’s rarely monitored animal shelters.

In a state most famous for racing horses — and doing so in manner that almost appears civilized, what with the all the elegant outfits, mint juleps and whimsical hats — many dogs are living far less regal lives, stuck in county-run shelters that, under state law, receive almost no scrutiny from state agencies.

Unlike most states, Kentucky’s animal-shelter law does not include any inspection or enforcement provisions, which means any actions taken against them such shelters must from citizens.

Not until 2004 did state laws even get written to lay down minimum standards for county-run shelters. Those new measures required each county to have access to a shelter and animal-control officer, and set out standards that include protection from the weather; basic veterinary care or humane euthanasia for ill or injured animals; adequate heat in winter; clean and dry pens with adequate room for animal comfort; construction with materials that can be properly cleaned and disinfected; available clean water; uncontaminated food provided daily; and public access to the facility.

Those laws didn’t outline how, or specify who, was responsible for enforcing those standards.

A measure in the 2017 legislative session called for a study of ways to better fund animal shelters and cited the need for a “government entity” to enforce the state’s shelter rules, but it died without consideration.

That lack of enforcement is a large part of the reason the Animal Legal Defense Fund has ranked the state last in animal protection laws for 11 years in a row.

A study by the University of Kentucky, done in 2016, found that of 92 shelters covering Kentucky’s 120 counties – some of them regional facilities – conditions at 57 percent violated three or more provisions of Kentucky’s animal-shelter laws.

More than a fourth were considered “very substandard,” and only 12 percent were meeting all the rules the legislature put in place in 2004.

“Current laws do not appear to be fully satisfactory at accomplishing the goal of providing good shelter animal care across Kentucky,” said the study.

skaggsWhile county-run shelters operate with relative immunity, independent nonprofit sanctuaries and shelters get no such free ride, as was the case last week when the state Department of Agriculture seized 14 dogs from a no-kill sanctuary called Eden.

Randy J. Skaggs, who operates the sanctuary in Elliot County through his Trixie Foundation, faces 179 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty in connection with poor health and living conditions.

Skaggs defenders say he has devoted his life to caring for animals because so many public shelters in the region were substandard.

Skaggs says he is housing animals no one else wants, and that shelters would end up euthanizing. He refuses to let anyone adopt dogs because believes their best chance to live a healthy and happy life is at his sanctuary.

Skaggs believes the criminal charges against him are retaliation over his efforts to bring attention to Kentucky’s failure to adopt adequate animal protection laws, his criticisms of county shelters and his efforts to push for improvements.

(Photos: Will Wright / Lexington Herald-Leader)


Comment from Julia Sharp
Time May 10, 2018 at 10:33 am

Why are you even giving him press time??? Here is the real story. Follow the links in the story. This is an exploitative hoarding situation that is ALL about the money he takes in. He spends less than 15 bucks a year on each animal. http://kycir.org/2018/05/07/trixie-foundation-skaggs/

Comment from Rox
Time May 13, 2018 at 10:37 am

With all due respect, if you would have an opportunity to dig just a little deeper about the horse racing industry you would begin to realize that even in Kentucky it is not “more civilized” and while people are sporting idiotic chapeux and sucking down $100 a bottle ingredients of mint juleps drunk out of sterling silver cups, thousands of horses are being exploited to the point of illness, injury and horrific deaths if not on the track itself (Barbaro, Eight Belles) then at the knives of Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouse employees. The vast amounts of money involved in racing (arguably because for those in search of tax deductions racing is about the only equestrian activity that the IRS leaves pretty much alone) leads to extreme abuse of the “commodity” and is substance-abuse driven among owners, trainers, exercise riders, jockeys and worst of all horses who are almost universally given massive amounts of pharmaceuticals just to keep them going for “the roses” even while injured. The American racing community considers itself above any concerns about animal cruelty, money laundering, illegal betting, and everything attached to those concepts. Far from being “civilized” American racing caters to the most basic and disgusting human trait: getting money at the expense of the vulnerable.

Comment from John Woestendiek
Time May 13, 2018 at 8:17 pm

I believe I wrote “almost appears civilized” … and that’s with the help of the way the news media tends to cover it. Appreciate your points, and pretty much agree with them;

john / ohmidog!

Comment from Elishaba
Time May 21, 2018 at 5:35 pm

Im going to try to start a group to go around and collect mony for the kill shelter in my city