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Director says animal shelter drew good grades from vet

BY LAUREN P. DUNCAN lduncan@paducahsun.com

While the McCracken County Animal Shelter has a problem with limited space, its staff has been working to keep the close quarters clean. 

Dr. Loran Wagoner, a veterinarian and inspector with the Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners, visited the shelter June 12. Wagoner came in response to a complaint about the shelter brought to the board at its May meeting. 

Shelter Director Ryan Brown said Wagoner had positive things to say about the shelter. He said Wagoner saw no corrective measures to report to the board and said the shelter was easily among one of the top 20 percent of shelters he has seen in the state in regard to cleanliness.

Brown said Wagoner visited the shelter when it first opened and noted during his recent visit that he was impressed with the changes. 

When contacted by the Sun, Wagoner said he could not comment until his report was approved at the July meeting of the Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners.

Wagoner did tell Brown that the shelter has an overcrowding issue, as many shelters do. The McCracken County Animal Shelter doesn't euthanize animals in order to make space, making overcrowding an ongoing problem. 

On Wednesday, Brown said the shelter had about 85 dogs, leaving little room for more. 

While the shelter started with one main building, it has added concrete on the east and west sides and developed kennels to house dogs both inside and outside the buildings. It also added another row of kennels, a building for quarantined dogs with biting or other behavior issues, and the "Cat Habitat," a small building and outdoor area for cats.

To address overcrowding, Brown said county inmates help by walking the dogs every day, and two or three compatible dogs are placed in one larger pen.

Occasionally, Brown said he has had to turn away surrenders due to limited space.

"We don't want to get to a point where we're just warehousing dogs," Brown said.

In May, the shelter did not euthanize any dogs, but there were a few in June which had to be put down due to health issues after being hit by vehicles before arriving at the shelter. Brown said the shelter seeks the advice of a veterinarian before making the decision to euthanize.

"Any time an animal is euthanized, it takes an agreement with the vet," he said.

Some animals have been at the shelter for more than a year, such as Sonny. Sonny, a calm, quiet dog, faces a challenge in getting adopted: her breed is a "pit mix."

"People see a dog with a face, a bully breed, and that's all they see," Brown said.

While the shelter's overcrowding comes partially as a result of looked-over animals like Sonny, it also houses neglected pets. In one case, the owner of a dog at the shelter was found and contacted through information on file with a veterinarian, but no one has come for it.

The shelter recently had an incident with parvovirus, where a litter of three puppies were brought in and already had the virus, which all dogs are vaccinated for when entering the shelter. Brown said two puppies were able to be treated, but one had to be euthanized. Parvo, Brown said, is very prevalent in the area.

Some shelters are able to hold infected dogs in an alternate shelter for a week to prevent spread, but that option is unavailable with limited space at the McCracken County shelter.

"We do our best with what we have," Brown said.

The McCracken shelter is one of the few shelters in the area that has an on-site clinic, Brown said. After an individual pays the $50 adoption fee for a pet, it can be spayed, neutered and vaccinated at the location.

The shelter employs four part-time and one full-time staff members. It also receives support from volunteers and uses social media to get the word out about its found and adoptable animals.

The shelter opened in 2011 after the county split its services with the McCracken County Humane Society. At the June 10 McCracken Fiscal Court meeting Judge-Executive Van Newberry said the court would look at merging the Human Society and county shelter again. If an agreement cannot be formed, Newberry said, the county would look at constructing a new shelter.

Contact Lauren Duncan, Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8692 or follow @laurenpduncan on Twitter.

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