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Leaders discuss animal shelter

BY LAUREN P. DUNCAN lduncan@paducahsun.com

Paducah and McCracken County leaders say a meeting Monday with board members of the McCracken County Humane Society went well and moved them closer to working out a joint shelter agreement.

McCracken County began operating its own animal shelter in 2011 after splitting with the McCracken County Humane Society. In June, the McCracken Fiscal Court received a recommendation from its animal shelter task force to look at merging again with the humane society as an alternative to building a new shelter.

Judge-Executive Van Newberry, Deputy Judge-Executive Doug Harnice, Paducah Mayor Gayle Kaler and City Manager Jeff Pederson met with McCracken County Humane Society board members Dr. Rob Robertson, Pat Vannerson and Mark Whitlow to discuss a merger.

"I think it was a good meeting," Harnice said. "I think (the humane society) is really intent on us coming back to them, and we're open to that."

One big decision regarding a possible merger is what will be done to house animals. The county is operating out a of a makeshift shelter on County Park Road. The humane society facility, located nearby on Coleman Road, would need additional space if the two entities were to merge.

Harnice confirmed the leaders discussed adding to the humane society facility, which he said the society's board members were open to talking about.

While the county and the humane society will make the ultimate decisions on the merger, the city officials were invited to the meeting because the county covers the city's animal control operations under state law. Since 2004, the city has shared some of the animal shelter and control operations costs with the county.

Kaler said the humane society board members at the meeting agreed to take the parameters the leaders discussed back to their full board. She said it was a "very collaborative" meeting.

At a July 28 Fiscal Court meeting, members voted to merge the county animal control and shelter under one title: McCracken County Animal Control and Sheltering.

Kaler said one topic at Monday's meeting was animal control, which she said the humane society board members were in favor of allowing the county to continue providing. 

Robertson said he did not want to comment at any length until the humane society board meets later this month.

"I can say we were encouraged by the cooperative attitudes at the meeting and the willingness to work out a solution together," he said.

The local officials will meet again with the humane society leaders in three weeks, Kaler said.

Meanwhile, Harnice said he is happy with current operations at the county shelter, which he credited to shelter director Ryan Brown.

"I think the county shelter is doing really well. They're adopting out a lot of cats and dogs," he said.

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

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