Settlement in Clay County Lawsuit Will Mean Dramatic Improvements in Conditions for Kentucky’s Homeless Animals

Posted on March 6, 2012

Kentucky Woman Represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund Had Sued County for Failure to Protect Shelter Animals as Mandated by State Law

For immediate release

Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund     

Additional photosClay County, KY — In a big step forward for Clay County’s homeless dogs and cats, an order of judgment was filed in Clay County Circuit Court today resolving a lawsuit against the county that alleged systematic abuses at the county animal shelter. Plaintiff and lifelong Clay County resident Tori Smith alleged that the Clay County Animal Shelter failed to meet the minimum standards of care mandated by Kentucky’s Humane Shelter Law. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), with the assistance of the Louisville office of the law firm Frost Brown Todd, represented Smith in her claims against the county. According to the order of judgment, which is a settlement agreement that can be enforced by the court, Clay County will now send its dogs and cats to the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter in Rockholds, Kentucky for the provision of sheltering and animal control services that comply with the state’s required standards of care.

Why does the Clay County settlement agreement have tails wagging? The settlement will drastically improve the lives of animals who are lost or abandoned in Clay County by making sure they receive all the protections of Kentucky’s Humane Shelter Law. The Humane Shelter Law sets minimum standards that counties must meet in caring for their homeless animals, including operating animal shelters, or contracting with other shelters–as Clay County will now do with the non-profit Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter–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.

According to today’s order of judgment, homeless animals may still be kept at the Clay County shelter until they are transported to the Knox-Whitley shelter, but Clay County will now fully comply with all state standards at its facility, including:

  • Providing veterinary care to all ill or injured animals and humane euthanasia to those who are irremediably suffering;
  • Protecting animals from extreme cold and heat;
  • Segregating dogs from cats, males from females, sick animals from healthy ones, and aggressive animals from all others;
  • Providing fresh food twice daily and constant access to clean water;
  • Keeping records of all animals entering the shelter and making efforts to facilitate the reclamation of lost and stray animals by their human families.

Ms. Smith and her attorneys will have the right to inspect the Clay County shelter unannounced for the next year and to request any and all records from the shelter.

These improvements, which coincide with a recent change in the county’s fiscal court, are a far cry from the deplorable conditions that existed when Ms. Smith filed her lawsuit against the county in 2010. At that time, Ms. Smith described seeing filthy cages infested with fleas and ticks, dead and dying puppies, and dog food strewn amongst urine and feces. The county’s stray dogs were housed in one large, open-air pen that exposed animals to freezing weather in the winter and sweltering temperatures in the summer. Nearly all of the cats had serious upper respiratory infections, yet none of these sick or injured animals ever received any veterinary care whatsoever and were often left to languish in their cages until they died or were eventually euthanized or adopted.   

Lawsuits filed by ALDF in two other particularly problematic Kentucky counties–Robertson and Estill–also resulted in settlement agreements leading to vastly improved conditions for homeless animals in those counties. As part of the terms of the Robertson County settlement, a new shelter was constructed; that shelter opened in 2009.

“Despite Kentucky’s notoriously weak animal protection laws, ALDF and Kentucky counties have been able to create real and lasting change for the states most desperately needy animals,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “We are delighted to now be working with the current Clay County government to make life a little bit kinder for the homeless dogs and cats of Kentucky.”


10 thoughts on “Settlement in Clay County Lawsuit Will Mean Dramatic Improvements in Conditions for Kentucky’s Homeless Animals

  1. Ruth McGill says:

    This is wonderful that this lady stood her ground and set to make things better for the animals in Clay County. My hat’s off to her and also to your organization.

    It is amazing that some of these places are so far behind in humane treatment of our animals.

    Who is watching these shelters to assure that they dont go back to their old ways. WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP? I LIVE IN KY. Please let me know how I can get involved in any way… Thank you.

  2. kathy Kron says:

    What the heck is wrong with the state of Kentucky? Surely there are decent, animal loving people in that state. How could have these deplorable conditions gone undetected all this time. I commend this state for finally moving forward but I shudder to think how many poor animals suffered long agonizing deaths due to the indifference, ignorance and apathy of the public. Who on earth oversees the animal welfare “shelters” in this state. They need to be fired immediately!

  3. Pam Bollinger says:

    Hooray for Tori Smith. We need more like her. It is still so hard for me to understand why people neglect and abuse animals. Why have them, why work in a shelter if you are not going to take care of them

  4. Neila says:

    I moved to Kentucky from California and I am disgusted at how animals are treated here–The problem here is that you have too many small counties that are run by HARD NOSED GOOD OL BOYS-they don’t give a shit about animals or the welfare of kids–these are the ones that don not monitor these shelters instead of getting people that really care about the welfare of the cats and dogs they hire cheap unknowledgeable and uncaring workers that only think about one thing and that is getting a paycheck–and screw the care of the animals–ANYONE THAT IS HIRED TO RUN/WORK AT A SHELTER MUST HAVE A DESIRE TO TRULY CARE FOR THESE ANIMALS AND HAVE COMPASSION–IT’S NOT THE ANIMALS FAULT BUT THE DAMN HUMANS WHO ARE TOO CHEAP AND LAZY TO GET THE DOGS/CATS SPAYED OR NEUTERED–THERE ARE A LOT OF LOW COST SPAY NEUTER CLINICS AROUND–THEY HAVE TO GET UP OFF THE COUCH AND TAKE THEIR ANIMALS THERE–NO EXCUSES! Also people need to trun in abuse/neglect cases too!

  5. Christine A. Grabar says:

    I too feel there is no excuse in Kentucky or any other state for animal shelters to be run like this with such lack of compassion for the welfare of these precious animals! I agree with you all that people should not work in animal shelters unless they are truly animal lovers. I volunteer at Sun Valley Animal Shelter in the cattery (I love cats) on Saturday mornings. This is a no-kill shelter in Glendale, AZ (near Phoenix). The staff members are there because they love and care about the animals — they admitted they are not there to earn big bucks — they are there because they enjoy what they do. Volunteers are there because we love taking care of the animals — we are certainly not forced to be there. In fact, I fell in love with two adult cats and adopted them back in July of 2008. AJ (male) and Persha (female) have been wonderful new additions to my household! Also, I agree with you all about how people who allow animal shelters to get into such bad shape in which the animals suffer until they pass away should be fired and then arrested! Then, bring in people who truly love animals to run these shelters and make them great places for the animals until they get adopted out. Pet Helpers in Charleston, SC (where I used to live at one time) is another no-kill shelter that has fundraisers to keep their shelter running and the animals are well cared for! That shelter is on James Island (Charleston area). I adopted one of my other cats there back in the early 1990s — that is how I know about that shelter too.

  6. Paula says:

    How can this county even call themselves an animal shelter when abuse goes on there. I thank God these animals are going to a better place. Maybe they should cage the employees there, instead, and give them the same treatment.

  7. lynn says:

    This is not the only shelter in KY with deplorable conditions. Domestic and feral, healthy and sick, male and female cats caged together in the same outdoor cages.

    Dogs have been registered and given ID numbers, only to come up missing and the numbers not on record.

    Small dogs and puppies in cages with large buckets of water twice as high as they can reach.

    They have been numerous reports of animal abuse by various government employees to the local SPCA but who refuse to step forward for fear of losing their jobs.

    SPCA workers and dog rescue members have been denied access or given only limited access to this shelter.

    News paper is not an option and one report to PETA went bad, the person reporting the abuse was victimized. Other Animal Rights Organizations have not responded.

  8. Katie says:

    They have not cleaned up their act! They are housing cats and kittens in rusty rabbit cage. Disgusting!

  9. andrea baker says:

    Why don’t animal rights organizations follow up with problems like this? I understand that animal neglect and cruelty is a growing issue and way to many arrive everyday but once a shelter or a person has been reported or investigated he/she should have follow ups investigations periodically.The people that see animal neglect or abuse are just as guilty as those that are doing it if they do not report it. I have no respect for anyone that mistreats an animal. I believe the way a human treats an animal reflects what type of person he/she is. God can see the way humans are treating these innocent creatures,their time will come one day.

  10. Victoria says:

    What about Memphis Animal Shelter that has been in the news repeatedly for starving dogs, promoting aco’s who have been cited for animal cruelty?

Be a Partner in Protection!

Donate monthly to help animals.

or make a one-time gift »

ALDF's Online Store

Help fund our lifesaving work!


Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.

Join Us

Follow ALDF on these networks:

Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.