Did Leona Know?

Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF Founder and General Counsel on August 25, 2008

When Leona Helmsley left a mission statement directing that the bulk of her $5-8 billion estate be used to help dogs, do you think she understood just how desperately that money is needed?

Last week, ALDF filed two lawsuits in Kentucky, where the situation for lost and stray dogs and cats is abysmal. Kentucky’s Humane Shelter Law mandates that the counties provide basic care for homeless animals, but our investigation shows that many of Kentucky’s counties are failing to provide even the most minimal care.  Robertson County’s “shelter” is a primitive wooden shack, where dogs are forced to live in their own waste, in the extreme heat in the summer and freezing temperatures in the winter, on dirt floors that flood during rainstorms.  

And, here’s what one witness said of the “shelter” in Estill County:  “As an animal lover involved with fostering and rescuing dogs from the Estill County facility, I’m sickened to see mother dogs struggling to keep fleas out of their eyes while nursing their pups on the facility’s filthy concrete floors. Bluntly, it is a holding tank until death or the rescuers arrive…whichever comes first. But, it is by no means a shelter of any kind.”

We’ve heard reports of other counties in Kentucky, in which there is no building, not even a shack, to house the animals and no staff to care for them. Lost or stray dogs are picked up, shot in the head and discarded. That’s it. End of discussion. Large dogs, small dogs, ugly dogs, cute dogs, dogs who would lick the face of any comers–it doesn’t matter; all of them come to the same abrupt end: a bullet to the skull.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  Boom… dead; tossed into the pile. What does that say about our society?

This is not some far off third world country. It’s Kentucky and that’s just one state out of the fifty!

What if there was money to build fully functioning animal shelters in Kentucky and staff them with people who know how to humanely treat and care for stray and lost animals, how to provide them with appropriate medical care, spay and neuter them, and evaluate potential new homes? What if there was money to pay volunteer coordinators to organize people from the community to help clean, groom, walk and socialize these animals, so they would be ready for new homes? How would this impact the entire community, which could now take pride in how it treats its neediest members. It’s obvious how it would impact the dogs.

Do you think Leona knew? And if she did, will those who now control her fortune use it in a way that honors her wishes?

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