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Tag: state law

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)

Alaska teen hunters boast of their dog kill

fairbanks

Two teen hunters in Alaska were proud of “bagging a wolf” — even though the wolf was wearing a collar and turned out to be a sled dog.

Either way, they did no wrong, at least under Alaska’s animal cruelty laws, which permit the killing of dogs on public property.

Some people around Fairbanks are saying it’s time to change those laws after what was at least the second fatal shooting of a dog this year in the same community.

Back in July, an eight-month old puppy, a lab mix named Lucy, was found with a bullet through her head after wandering away from her home in the community of Goldstream Valley in Fairbanks.

When the owner called state troopers, he was told they wouldn’t even respond.

A spokeswoman told the Fairbanks News-Miner then that no crime had taken place: “Just shooting a dog and killing it is technically not against the animal cruelty statute,” she said.

In the more recent case, a 14-month-old sled dog named Padouk was killed on public land by two brothers, age 12 and 13, who were hunting together with a .22-caliber rifle.

He was shot through the heart about 30 minutes after he had escaped his owner’s yard, and the teens took his body to their great-grandfather, a taxidermist, to be mounted as a hunting trophy.

Padouk’s co-owners said they found out what happened to their dog when they were contacted by an ATVer who told them he’d come across two teenagers who were proud of themselves for bagging a “wolf” and asked for his help transporting the carcass to their grandmother’s home.

The ATVer refused to give the boys a ride, but he let them use his cellphone to call their grandmother.

“These two kids have been rabbit hunting in the area and they are continuing, people have been reporting. If you drive the road at 6 p.m., you have a good chance of meeting them,” said Helene Genet, one of Padouk’s co-owners.

“They haven’t apologized at all and they don’t have the feeling that they’ve done something wrong … and rightfully so, the law doesn’t provide for dogs not to be shot in public areas,” Genet said at a Friday meeting called to address concerns among dog owners about the shootings.

More than 50 people attended the meeting spurred by the shooting of Padouk, the Fairbanks News-Miner reported.

The two boys will face no charges because under Alaska animal cruelty laws it must be proven that a suspect was intentionally trying to cause pain and suffering.

And, as many in Alaska — and elsewhere — believe, hunters never do that.

In Alaska, hunters, as well as those who perform do-it-yourself euthanizations, are pretty much exempted from animal cruelty laws.

Padouk’s owners said they called state troopers after they got the phone number for the boys’ grandmother from the ATVer. Genet said the grandmother hung up on her three times when she requested permission to come and see if the dead “wolf” was their dog.

Padouk was co-owned by Genet, a recreational musher, and tourism kennel operator Nita Rae, of Sirius Sled Dogs.

At Friday’s meeting, participants discussed ways to stop future dog shootings, such as a rule against shooting guns on Goldstream Valley trails, or building a database of dogs killed in the valley to show leaders the extent of the problem.

Fairbanks Borough Assemblywoman Katheryn Dodge said she plans to re-introduce a borough animal cruelty law that existed until a 2013 reorganization of borough code.

Alaska Legislator David Guttenberg told the crowd they shouldn’t expect any changes in state laws.

Padouk’s owners say they doubt the boys really believed Padouk was a wolf. He only weighed 60 to 70 pounds and was wearing a blue collar.

While state troopers told the owners no charges would be filed, they did assist them in reclaiming Padouk’s body. The boys’ great grandfather, after being contacted by troopers, agreed to call off the taxidermy and let Rae and Genet have the body of their dog back.

(Photo: Fairbanks News-Miner)