ALDF Takes Kentucky Counties to Task for Failing to Protect Homeless Dogs and Cats

Posted on August 20, 2008

­Decrepit County Facilities Brought under Fire for Falling Far Short of Standards Mandated by State’s Humane Shelter Law

Sign the petition!Update
May 2010: ALDF negotiated an agreement with Rockcastle County resulting in dramatically improved conditions for some of the state’s most desperately needy animals. Before ALDF’s intervention, gravely ill and injured animals were left to languish in their cages with no medical treatment, often facing attack from other animals who are housed with them; unaltered male and female animals were housed together, resulting in pregnancies and exacerbating the overpopulation crisis; and dogs were forced to relieve themselves, sleep, and even eat their food directly off of the same filthy kennel floors.

December 2009: Great year-end news for homeless Kentucky animals in need of a second
chance! In a settlement agreement reached on December 17, 2009, Estill County
has agreed to oversee critical improvements for homeless animals in the
county’s shelter. Read more and see before/after photos.

April 2009: ALDF’s efforts provided complete victory for the Robertson county animals. According to an agreed order of judgment issued by Robertson County’s 18th Circuit Court, a new and largely improved shelter must be completed by July 1st of this year and begin housing dogs and cats the next day. The new shelter will provide a higher standard of care and a superior home for the animals, and adequate veterinary care will be a guarantee. The shelter will also segregate dogs from cats, sick or injured animals from healthy animals, males from females and aggressive animals from all others. Nursing mothers and their young will also be kept apart from other animals. Meanwhile, the fight to get Estill county to protect its animals in compliance with Kentucky state law continues.

August 20, 2008

A dog at the Estill County shelterIRVINE and MT OLIVET, KY–Outraged citizens are filing concurrent lawsuits in Estill and Robertson counties today, taking the counties to task for failing to provide basic, humane conditions for stray dogs and cats, as mandated by Kentucky’s Humane Shelter Law. While the state legislature had provided the counties three years (until July 13, 2007) to come into compliance with most standards, both counties remain in violation of many of the law’s mandates, to the ongoing detriment of both their homeless animals and the residents and taxpayers who care about their welfare. Angelika Kasey and Toni Penrod brought their concerns about violations at their respective local shelters to the national non-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), whose attorneys will be representing them. ALDF Board Chair and Louisville attorney Katie Brophy is filing both lawsuits.

­Watch news coverage about the conditions at Kentucky shelters and an interview with Ms. Brophy on

Why are some Kentucky counties 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.

Roberson County shelterWhat should be places of refuge for homeless animals, however, are more like filthy prisons. Robertson County’s Mt. Olivet “shelter” is a primitive wooden shack where dogs endure searing heat in summer and freezing temperatures in the winter and lie amidst their own excrement on dirt floors that flood during rainstorms. In the Estill County complaint, Ms. Kasey describes seeing filth, flea and tick infestations, and contaminated drinking water left for the dogs, who are rounded up and euthanized every Thursday. Stray and abandoned cats fare no better. In Robertson County, the county refuses to allow the dog warden to take in cats, and homeless cats are not provided for in any way. At the Estill County shelter, cats are euthanized regardless of whether they might be lost family pets or healthy strays who would be suitable candidates for adoption.

An outside pen at Robertson County shelter“As a taxpayer, I feel obliged to take a stand to make sure that Kentucky’s laws that provide a bare minimum of protections for these animals are taken seriously by the County,” says Ms. Kasey. “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.”

The following is an excerpt from Ms. Kasey’s eyewitness description:

There were no days or hours of operation posted anywhere that I could see. There were no other employees or volunteers present.

It was VERY hot in the kennel areas. One area had fans. The shelter employee’s office is air-conditioned and she did not leave it much. She had no interaction with the dogs while I was there, nor did she do anything for them.

Many dogs at teh Estill County shelter did not have access to clean water."Poop" was not scooped the three-four hours I was there. “Pee-pee” was everywhere. NO food was distributed, no snacks, no toys, blankets … and no clean water. See the "green" floating in the bucket in the picture to the right. This is an example of what most of the water buckets looked like. 

Ticks were crawling on the floor in the kennels. Fleas were jumping everywhere. Yes, I was bitten but anticipated this problem and brought spray for that. To say the dogs were “infested” with fleas and ticks is an understatement. Ticks/fleas were in my truck and purse when I got home. I had to fumigate my vehicle that night. The little dog I brought home had so many bite marks; the vet could feel them on his skin during the examination the following day.

The flies are too numerous to mention and the smell is beyond offensively intolerable. Mommy dogs were nursing on the concrete floor(s). One mommy dog had some sort of a crate bottom with dirty newspapers in it. She was doing her best to keep fleas out of her eyes and nose while nursing her pups. She and her puppies were rescued that day. In fact, I think we got all the mommies & their puppies.

The food bowls were clean which I found strange as nothing else was. No "lick" marks where they had been fed. Some of the kennels did not have any food bowls at all. I did not see any bags and/or cans of food. But, I did not have the opportunity to investigate every closed-door…  nook and cranny.

The general attitude was that they are going to be rescued today or euthed tomorrow … so what did it really matter?

The rest of the shelter is pretty trashy. 

The shelter is located next to some sort of tire company, which burns unknown debris during the day. The smoke and fumes and those from the “pile” blow right into the shelter through the large main garage type door. It made all of us sick and you could tell it was irritating some of the dogs. The smoldering pile on the shelter property smelled awful. Another person and I investigated it for animal remains but none were found. 

In my opinion, this “shelter” is no more than a holding tank for the destruction of innocent animals.

ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing interests of animals through the legal system. Copies of the complaints and photographs of the facilities and animals are available upon request.  For more information, visit

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