Neighbors seek to shut down dog-rescue kennel in Mercer

December 17, 2004|ANN R. HARNEY

HARRODSBURG - Linda Cook, owner of a kennel on Hopewell Road, and some of her neighbors on Hopewell Road and Jackson Pike, are in the midst of a dispute over the behavior of the dogs in the kennel.

One of the neighbors is attorney Lee Miller Dean, who has filed a lawsuit claiming the dogs are a nuisance and that Cook is seeking donations through an illegal organization.

Dean says a non-profit organization with a tax exemption through federal tax law cannot be individually owned. For her part, Cook says the kennel, Northern Dog and Hopewell Rescue, is "on paper a division of the Anderson Humane Society; Hopewell is an entity within itself."

Dean disputes her claim, saying a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, cannot be individually owned, and in an individual's name, which, he says, Cook's organization is.


"There should be a deed to her organization to get it out of her name," he said in a telephone interview Thursday. "If she dies, the property will go to her heirs when it should go to federal, state or local government."

He said Cook is trying to raise funds fraudulently on her Internet site to use to fence all five acres of the property. He said the fraud was her claim that donations were tax deductible.

Her Web site can be found at Cook worked in both Anderson and Woodford in animal control. She was director of the Woodford Humane Society for five years in the 1990s.

Temporary injunction sought

Dean and Cook appeared in Mercer Circuit Court Wednesday morning, when Circuit Judge Darren Peckler heard Dean's request for a temporary injunction, citing the dogs' barking and attacks against a pet lamb belonging to Dennis Thompson and chickens belonging to another neighbor in the area.

Peckler said there is no leash law in Mercer County requiring dogs to be under an owner's control, and the state law addressing the control of dogs was repealed. However, he said a resident has the right to shoot dogs that harass or harm livestock.

The judge said there is a noise-abatement measure, and he told Cook she must keep the dogs inside a structure if they bark continuously for five minutes. Cook does not board dogs. Rather, she keeps dogs that might otherwise be abandoned or euthanized. While there are always exceptions, she keeps dogs until adoptive homes can be found for them.

As to the non-profit status of the kennel, Peckler said that involves federal law and as a state judge, it is outside his jurisdiction.

Cook appeared in court without legal representation. She said she had hired an attorney but he was not able to attend the hearing, saying it was on short notice. Dean said he filed the lawsuit about two weeks ago and Cook had been served notice of the suit at least 10 days before the hearing.

Asking Fiscal Court for help, too

Mercer Circuit Court is not the only venue from which Dean is seeking relief. Before the hearing Wednesday, Dean, his sister and neighbor, Judy Burks, and Thompson appeared at the regular meeting of Mercer County Fiscal Court.

They are seeking notification of a person's intent to establish a kennel in an area and asked Fiscal Court to adopt an ordinance to that effect. "We want no permit for a kennel except through a prior application and public hearing," Dean told magistrates. "It's hard to undo something."

"None of you would want a dog shelter next to you," Burks said at the Fiscal Court meeting. "Unbeknownst to us there could be up to 50 dogs in the kennel."

"We would have acted much sooner had we known a kennel was being put there," Dean told Judge Peckler.

"We're still looking at which way to go," Mercer County Judge-Executive John Trisler said.

"We have to carry it a little farther," said Mercer County Attorney Douglas Greenburg. "Who would hold the hearings? Who would decide?"

"This county has gone to the dogs"

While not blaming Hopewell Rescue dogs, Burks said three calves have been lost to dogs in the area. "This county has gone to the dogs."

Cook said she has had no complaints about the kennel dogs other than from the parties to the lawsuit. Mercer County Animal Control Officer David Quinn has not called or visited the kennel with complaints, she said. This summer she had 23 dogs in her shelter and that's about the limit of the number she can handle at one time. While she has had volunteers for which she is grateful, she is on the site all of the time. She lives there.

Cook said her property is for sale.

"As of today, it is for sale," she said Thursday. "I'm strongly considering taking it off the market and re-listing it in the spring. If I could get enough money out of this place to put up another kennel in order to not live in an area where people don't want me, I would do that. I will always be committed to rescue."

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