Dean collected information from 116 counties throughout Kentucky and discovered that 69 of those counties own and operate their own animal shelters, while 16 counties contract with or send animals to humane societies or animal welfare groups.
The first option of the proposal was for a county-run shelter, which would require the county to hire additional staff and merge shelter management with animal control operations. Under this option, the Jessamine County Animal Shelter would be an open-admissions shelter for all county residents, governed by the fiscal court and funded by tax dollars and fees generated by adoptions.
In the proposal, Dean said there have been several complaints regarding the operation of the shelter over the past several years, including that the shelter is dirty, shelter adoption policies are too restrictive and dogs and cats are not being cared for or treated properly.
“I believe many of the complaints are the result of different perceptions of how a shelter should be operated,” Dean said. “Regardless of whether they are true or not, the bottom line is that we, as members of the fiscal court, are ultimately responsible for correcting any problems or misconceptions that may exist.”
Jenise Smith, director of S.A.V.E., was stunned by Dean’s comments.
“I know that the county has not received very many complaints, and in our follow-up calls, we get good feedback,” Smith said. “It’s an animal shelter, and this old building is not going to be a pretty place — we clean all day every day. We follow the policies, we vaccinate and we do clean every single day. It’s unfortunate he did that, because it’s very hurtful to the shelter.”
Smith also noted that during Dean’s visit to the shelter he said everything looked good.
Dean’s second option presented the possibility of continuing to contract out the shelter services but revising the contract that would include more oversight and allow the county the ability to intervene with management decisions when necessary. This would require S.A.V.E. and Friends of the Animals of Jessamine County to resubmit their original bids to meet new specifications and requirements.
“There have been changes in public opinion about how we should care for shelter animals, and most of all, there has been a change in our society that demands us, as elected officials, to be more responsive and accountable to our citizens,” Dean said during his proposal.
Christy Hager, co-founder of Friends of the Animals of Jessamine County, is hopeful the court will vote in favor of this option.
“Option two is what we were hoping they would do all along,” Hager said. “Appoint a committee with vets, magistrates, citizens and revise the contract for the shelter. ”
With a plan already in place to construct a new 9,000-square-foot animal shelter facility, Dean suggested that the original shelter be renovated and used for animal control offices and as a holding facility for strays and sick or injured animals.
It is unclear when a final decision will be made about the shelter.