Posted on

Meade Co.’s animal shelter: Practical, efficient, cheap

She came in somewhat timidly last week, with the thought that, just perhaps, there might be a replacement for the pet she’d once chosen there that later died.
After a quick look at the offerings, Brandi Beasley, 18, of Irvington, Ky., found a new friend at the Meade County, (Ky.), Animal Shelter, just west of old Brandenburg. She went there, she said, because she’d found other shelters too expensive.
Monty Preston, the friendly, helpful assistant warden, took Beasley into the back room, which has 18 small, metal cages, to see the 51 or so dogs at the “shelter” that day. There were some puppies, yelping, of course.
She found just the one, of questionable lineage but possibly a pug-lab mix. She tenderly carried the little black dog into the reception office, to fill out the necessary adoption papers.
“This dog’s life just got saved,” said Preston. “We were ready to put him down tomorrow.”
Shelly Bachman, 18, Laconia, also stopped in for a look at the selection of animals.
Preston said “quite a few” people cross the Ohio River to visit the Brandenburg shelter, but he’s not sure how many.
No one knows which animals are due for euthanasia before a selection is made, to avoid undue influence on visitors. But of the animals there that day, one of the four cats and 30 of the 51 dogs the next day would fulfill their seven-day maximum stay.
A “two-day hold” was put on one of the other pups, a sibling of the lucky pug-lab mix who’d just been saved. Bachman also decided on one, but she hadn’t brought the money she would need, so she planned to return the next day.
It would cost $8: $3 for the license and $5 for the adoption fee (the fee for grown dogs is $10).
Meade County has had an animal shelter at Brandenburg about as long as Harrison County has been debating one. But the Brandenburg facility is small, about 1,728 square feet (compared to the 3,500-plus proposed here). The original portion was built of poured concrete in 1985; an indoor kennel, built of a wooden frame and white metal siding — insulated and fully water-proofed — was added a couple of years ago at a cost of about $20,000.
The project also used tons of donated material and volunteer workers, including volunteer inmates from the county lock-up, and materials. The old portion of the building was turned into office space and an intake area. The facility has central air and heating, and a gravel parking lot.
Meade County Judge Executive Mark Brown credits the Pets in Need Society (PINS) for completing the renovation. He turned the project over to that non-profit animal group, which organized volunteer construction workers and supplies and raised funds. PINS is still active, raising money and supplying discount coupons for a veterinarian to spay or neuter the animals that have been adopted from the shelter.
There was no vocal opposition to the expansion and none is believed to have existed when the first unit was constructed, possibly for two reasons: part of the money came from a state grant, and prior to the facility being constructed, animals were rounded up and kept in an open, fenced area in a field, where they were periodically shot to death.
After the old part of the building opened in 1985, the animals were still shot, until about eight years ago, Brown said. Then and now, a veterinarian comes weekly to euthanize the unwanted animals in a small sideroom, called the “kill room,” where the animals are placed on a small table and “put to sleep.” The carcasses are kept in a plastic bag in a freezer until the garbage disposal truck stops by and takes them to the landfill in Louisville.
The shelter is open six days a week, with limited hours, to serve Meade County’s population of about 27,000 and others from nearby counties. On Monday through Friday, the facility is open from 9 until 11 a.m. and 4 until 6 p.m.; on Saturday it’s 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
There are no complaints about the shelter not being open all day because before the part-time warden was hired, the shelter wasn’t open at all, unless the warden happened to be there.
The operation costs $55,000 to $60,000 a year. The warden earns about $20,000 a year and receives $1 from each $3 pet license that’s sold ($1.50 goes to the state, and the other 50 cents to the county). The dogs aren’t immunized at the pound; ones thought to be ill are isolated in a separate cage in the same room as the others.
There are no “grooming” facilities and no outside pens for regular exercise because the noise might disturb neighbors. Also, the facility has no additional acreage, other than a small fenced area just outside a door, where animals are brought inside when they first arrive and, if they aren’t lucky enough to be adopted, taken out.
Part of the operating cost is kept down by a program that allows two Class D, non-violent felons from the jail to help out with feeding, watering and cleaning twice daily, morning and evenings. Also, most of the food is donated, Preston said.
Last Thursday, Harrison County councilmen Alvin Brown, Gary Davis, Carl Duley and Kenneth Saulman and I paid a visit to the Meade County shelter to gather information and to get a first-hand look.
From what they saw, each of the councilmen mused that Harrison County could build an animal control center for $200,000 instead of the $514,000 facility proposed by the commissioners and still be dollars and square footage ahead. This was an information-gathering visit only. (The issue was expected to come up for discussion Monday night, after the deadline for this column.)
Meade County’s judge executive, an elected official who answers to a six-member fiscal court, couldn’t figure what all the fuss was about, why our 20-year-plus issue hasn’t been put to rest.
“With the resources Harrison County has, you ought to be able to have a Taj Ma-dog Hall,” he said.
Bachman, the 18-year-old Laconia woman, also doesn’t know what all the fuss is about, especially considering the numbers of animals “dumped” in rural Harrison County.
“It is a big problem,” she said. “You can go down the road and see little puppies running along, trying to catch the car. The majority of them get struck by cars.
“An animal control center would do a lot of good,” she said, adding: “I think it should be pretty good size to take care of the problem.”
But would she be willing to pay more in taxes, her fair share of the expense? She would, but she doesn’t own any property. Yet.
“I would be willing to help out,” Bachman said. “I’m a real animal lover.
“I want to be a vet.”