Suit Filed Over Extreme Animal Neglect by Officials in Clay County, KentuckyNovember 10th, 2010
Decrepit County Facility with Sick and Neglected Animals Brought under Fire for Violating State Law
Clay County, KY — An outraged citizen is filing a lawsuit against Clay County, Kentucky today, taking the county to task for extreme neglect of animals at the county’s shelter, neglect that violates Kentucky’s Humane Shelter Law. While the state legislature had provided the county three years (until July 13, 2007) to come into compliance with the law, the county remains in violation of much of it, to the ongoing detriment of both homeless animals and the residents and taxpayers who care about their welfare. Lifelong Clay County resident Tori Smith came to the national non-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) for help, and ALDF attorneys will represent her, along with pro bono assistance from the Louisville law firm of Frost Brown Todd.
Why is Clay County in the dog house when it comes to protecting stray and abandoned animals? The Humane Shelter Law sets minimum standards that counties must meet in caring for their homeless animals, including operating (or contracting with other counties operating) animal shelters that provide for basic care, food and water, shelter, public access, and humane euthanasia. Counties must also have a program allowing lost dogs and cats to be reunited with their families and potentially adopted when they are abandoned.
What should be a place of refuge for homeless animals, however, is more like a filthy prison. Clay County’s “shelter” is a woefully inadequate facility where many, if not most, of the dogs are housed in one large, open-air pen that does not protect them from the elements. Dogs are exposed to severe winter weather, including cold rain and freezing temperatures. During the summer, animals suffer from the consequences of extreme heat exposure without required and medically necessary relief or ventilation. In the Clay County complaint, Ms. Smith describes seeing filthy cages, dead and dying puppies, and dog food strewn amongst urine and feces. On at least one occasion, and possibly routinely, animals were left without food and water over the weekend. The County has refused to adopt certain dogs to the public, keeping them at the Shelter when adoptive homes are available. Stray and abandoned cats fare no better; nearly all of the cats have serious upper respiratory infections. None of these sick or injured animals have received any veterinary care whatsoever, and they are often left to languish in their cages until they die or are euthanized.
Over the past two years, ALDF has filed similar lawsuits against two other Kentucky counties—Robertson and Estill—that helped put an end to the abuse and neglect of homeless dogs and there. In May 2010, celebrated actress Ashley Judd joined ALDF in urging Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to protect Kentucky’s homeless animals through tough enforcement of the state’s Humane Shelter Law.