Animal shelter controversy moves from social media to visit from Humane Society to special fiscal court meeting

Posted June 29, 2016 at 2:18 pm


It’s not often something originating from Albany catches the attention of thousands of people across the nation, but last week, a post on the social media outlet Facebook from Chelsey Daffron regarding the Tri-County Animal Shelter turned some heads in a big way.

The original post, which included photos and a video showing graphic content of, in her opinion, mistreated animals at the shelter.

Daffron and Darrian Wallace were volunteers at the shelter and spent countless hours of their time attending to a number of animals that came through the shelter.

In all, Wallace and Daffron say they have facilitaded in the rescue of 369 animals since the beginning of their tenure at the Tri-County Animal Shelter.

After the overwhelming response to the Facebook post, Clinton County Judge/Executive Richard Armstrong called a special call meeting Monday night to address the situation at the Tri-County Animal Shelter.

With the second floor court room packed with citizens from Clinton County and some from surrounding counties, Judge/Executive Armstrong opened the fiscal court meeting with all magistrates present.

Armstrong said the Tri-County Animal Shelter is under no obligation to have volunteers and by trying to do a good thing for the county and allow volunteers access to the facility

“We were willing to try and it backfired on us,” Armstrong said. “It didn’t work and that’s what we are here to discuss.”

Armstrong then opened the floor for discussion and the first person to stand up was Daffron.

Daffron said she didn’t volunteer at the shelter with the notion to start any controversy.

“It’s not what we want,” Daffron said. “It’s what is compliant with the Kentucky Shelter standards.”

Armstrong said Kathryn M. Callahan, Kentucky State Director of the Humane Society, visited the facility Thursday.

“She was here for three and a half hours. She went down there with us and we had a good long talk and she didn’t point out anything that was terribly wrong to me.”

Daffron then went through a list of standards every shelter in the State of Kentucky has to be compliant with.

There were several items on that list Daffron didn’t agree the Tri-County Animal Shelter was compliant with, including housing animals of different species in different cages.

Magistrate Micky Riddle then asked if volunteers were allowed in the shelter after normal business hours with out the supervision of a county employee.

“That’s against our policies and procedures isn’t it?” Riddle said.

Riddle said the reason for this policy is because of the medicine stored in the facility used to euthanize the animals along with other medicines that may be stored on the property. However, it was stated the medicine is stored in a locked room within the facility and volunteers didn’t have access to that room.

Armstrong took the blame for allowing volunteers to be on the premises without a county employee present.

“That was my fault,” Armstrong said. “What we did was, we had all the volunteers sign a release, we sat down with them and told them what we required from them. Some of them done it and some of them didn’t. We left a key, which was a mistake … I’ll take the responsibility for that. There was a key left outside the door, but there won’t be a key left out there anymore.”

Another point addressed about the cat room at the shelter was the odor coming out of the room.

The Tri-County Animal Shelter uses bleach and Lysol to clean with and Armstrong said the smell could be caused from that or from the fact that the plumbing is being re-done because of a backed up drain on the property.

“I don’t know what that smell is, but it could be the sewer gases backing up and we are trying to fix that problem right now,” Armstrong said. “It should have been done years ago, I agree. I have been judge for 18 months and when we were told it needed to be done, we are down there doing it.”

Armstrong said he didn’t know if the smell Daffron was talking about was an ammonia smell or not, but when they turned the ventilation system on, the odor in the room became much more tolerable.

The next point Daffron made was the fact there are some cages with sharp metal edges where some animals have been known to cut themselves leaving gashes on them. Armstrong said they were also working to fix that problem as well by putting metal sheets up between the cages to keep the animals from being able to get close to one another.

As Daffron continued down the list of standards, she said the shelter isn’t compliant with providing the animals enough water and uncontaminated food.

“I’ve walked in there several times and I didn’t know whether the animals had been fed or watered,” Daffron said. “It’s not as much with the dogs, but the cats.”

Armstrong confirmed with Daffron when she was there, it was always after hours when she was on the property.

“You know, as well as I do, if you put water in a cage with a dog he will knock it over or whatever,” Armstrong said. “Same way with their food. They will knock it around and use the bathroom and then the next morning they will come in and clean. You can’t really blame a person … they can’t stay there 24 hours a day. They put in an eight hour day just like you do at work and they do the best they can. They come back the following day and they do the best they can again.”

By the end of the one hour and 39 minute meeting, several people from the crowd expressed their opinions and stated their concerns about what needs to happen at the Tri-County Animal Shelter.

Those concerns where to move the facility to healthier standard levels by contacting a veterinarian to aid in spaying and neutering of the animals.

Another concern was the budget of the shelter and what fees Cumberland County and Wayne County contribute to the shelter.

It was stated that both Cumberland and Wayne counties pay one third each of different expenses to help run the shelter.

Armstrong said Wayne County alone brought 147 dogs to the shelter last month. That raised concern about the contract between the counties, saying the contract needed to be re-evaluated. The contracts between Cumberland County and Wayne County have been set since 2002 and have been automatically renewed ever year since then.

There was a motion made by magistrate Terry Buster and seconded by magistrate Ricky Craig to allow volunteers to continue giving away dogs, cleaning or doing what is needed while Animal Control Officer James Stonecipher or Animal Control Officer Seth Stonecipher are present. The motion passed.

The second motion made during Monday night’s meeting was made by Riddle and seconded by magistrate Hershell Key to advertise for the position of volunteer coordinator for the animal shelter. The motion carried with no opposition.

The meeting ended with a motion to adjourn by Craig and seconded by Buster.

On Wednesday of last week, Daffron said she went to the Clinton County Fiscal Court in December of 2015 and asked if they would allow volunteers at the Tri-County Animal Shelter.

“They did pass it, but it didn’t get implemented until the last of January/first of February,” Daffron said. “There were several other volunteers who came out at the time, but now I think it’s just me and Darrian. I want to see these animals rescued.”

Monday, June 20, 2016 is the day when news of the Tri-County Animal Shelter hit the internet.

“We went out there Monday about 4:45 p.m. We walked in and I do the rounds on the dogs. Then we go to the cat room, which is just a small room separate from the dog room. The first thing I see is a cardboard box full of kittens. I looked to the left and see that a cat is dead. At that point I backed up and did the video. We started going through the kennels and none of them had food, none of them had water. There were like seven kittens inside that box just closed up in there together with the lid on top of it. There were six or seven kittens in the same cage as the dead kitten.”

Daffron said the last time she was at the shelter prior to Monday June 20, was the previous Friday, June 17.

“We typically go out there on the weekends, but we were just busy and didn’t have a chance to go,” Daffron said. “When I was there on Thursday of last week, I saw the kitten and it was bad sick. They have two options, they can either treat it medically or euthanize it. They cannot leave it there to suffer and die and they didn’t do either one.”

Daffron said after Monday’s events, they couldn’t keep silent any longer.

On Monday, the Humane Society was contacted and Daffron was advised to call the Kentucky State Police.

KSP was notified and responded to the animal shelter within an hour of being contacted.

“The officer went through the dog shelter and didn’t see anything wrong with the dogs, which there wasn’t anything wrong with the dogs,” Daffron said.

According to KSP Public Affairs Officer Billy Gregory, KSP Trooper Brian Gibson didn’t file a report. Gibson advised all animals were fed and sheltered.

Daffron then asked if she could take the dead kitten with her to transport to UK to determine the cause of death.

“I know that may sound crazy, but I wanted proof that animal died of neglect,” Daffron said. “I drove her to the diagnostics lab and we should have the results in 10 days.”

On Tuesday morning, Daffron made the trip to Lexington and on her way, with a dead kitten in a cooler in the front seat of her car, begin to wonder why had she been quiet about this situation for so long.

“I just pulled over on the side of the road as I was going to Lexington and I posted the video. The only way anything is going to get done is if people can see what is happening,” Daffron said. “I don’t want them to loose their jobs. It’s not about that. We know there is no such think as a no-kill shelter, we know there are some animals that are un-adoptable, we know they have to euthanize for space … we know the conditions that these animals are in when they get here are not the shelter worker’s fault … but letting them sit there and suffer and live in those conditions, they would be better off being euthanized when they walked through the doors.”

Daffron said she knows this attempt to change things has come off as being trouble makers, but that wasn’t her intention.

“We don’t want to cause any trouble,” Daffron said. “I just want people to be made aware of what’s happening because I feel like it’s the only way we are going to get any changes made. That’s the only reason I posted that video. It’s got like 1,200 shares so far and it’s went farther than I ever thought it would. It’s crazy, but at the same time I put on there if people are going to call to please be respectful, don’t yell at people, don’t curse at people … I don’t want that, but we do want change. We didn’t know how else to get it.”

Daffron and Wallace both said Monday’s incident wasn’t the first time this has happened.

“I think what a lot of people have misconstrued is this is a one time thing. This is not a one time thing. This has been happening since we started out there,” Daffron said. “I can show you countless video that shows the same thing as what happened on Monday. We have tried talking to Joy (Armstrong, Deputy Judge) multiple times. Can we at least charge an adoption fee … they aren’t receptive. They just haven’t been very receptive to any thing we’ve tried to make changes with. I can’t 100 percent speak for Richard (Armstrong, Clinton County Judge/Executive) on that because we usually always went through Joy.”

Daffron said she hasn’t spoken to Clinton County Judge/Executive Richard Armstrong very much over the past few months, but has on occasion about the volunteer program.

“I feel like they are somewhat a little bit responsible because they are supposed to be the governing entity for that shelter for this county,” Daffron said. “They have threatened us that if we all don’t get along then they will go back to the fiscal court and get rid of the volunteer program all together. That’s one of the reasons we have kept quite about it for so long. In our minds we are thinking ‘lets save what we can.’ We were there almost everyday. It wasn’t, well, we got there once a week and this is what it looks like.”

For a while, during their volunteer tenure, both Daffron and Wallace suspected the animals weren’t getting taken care of over the weekends.

Wallace placed a note on one of the food bowls telling when the animal had been fed. Upon returning two days later to the shelter, the note was still in the spot where it was left.

“They have cameras out there. I’m sure someone can pull up video and see that they aren’t going out there,” Daffron said.

James Stonecipher and Seth Stonecipher have been with the Tri-County Animal Shelter for several years, working as Animal Control Officers.

“When you’ve exhausted all avenues … when you’ve went to Joy and went to Judge Armstrong, when you’ve asked Seth and James (Stonecipher) … who do you turn to after that when they won’t do anything? Where do you go?,” Wallace said. “Do you keep quiet about it and keep cleaning up the mess and doing it over and over again? What do you do after that?”

The Tri-County Animal Shelter is located on Hwy 90, next to Keystone Foods, INC.

Wayne County and Cumberland County both pay a third of the cost for the shelter, however, the shelter resides in Clinton County.

“It’s maintained daily,” Armstrong said. “They clean everyday. We left a key for the volunteers which means they can go anytime during the night. There were five kittens left there and one of them was sick. It died sometime after James and Seth left. We are only talking about one small cat area and it was clean too. I’ve seen it myself numerous times.”

With the cost of the animal shelter being split between three counties, Joy Armstrong said there really isn’t enough funding to do everything they would like to do to the shelter which is one of the reasons why they have allowed volunteers to help out this year.

“As of right now, we don’t have a lot of funds going into the shelter,” Joy Armstrong said. “As far as I know we haven’t ever had any volunteers before now. When we went into the volunteer part of it we wanted to do more adoptions. I wasn’t familiar with the whole rescue part of it, but it’s a good thing. I told them that I would like a schedule and also that they could post pictures of the animals so the public would know when that shelter would be open other than from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. That never did happen.”

Joy Armstrong said there are other volunteers who have helped at the shelter and saved a lot of dogs.

“The others have abided by the rules and have been nice. They are no part of this,” Joy Armstrong said.

Since Richard Armstrong took office, he said there has been a lot of improvements made at the Tri-County Animal Shelter.

“We have made improvements at the shelter,” Armstrong said. “We’ve added tops to all the outside cages, we have put a wire fence between the cages so the dogs can’t get into the other cages and we are in the process of fixing the plumbing where a drain hasn’t worked in 14 years. We are making improvements out there. Tell the judge to go look … the judge has been in that shelter … the judge has been down there this week. I’ve seen animals that looked good down there and I’ve seen animals that look dangerous down there. We’ve tried to cooperate with the people who said they want to volunteer and now it’s come back to bite us in the back.”

Judge Armstrong said there could have been another way to handle this situation other than how it happened.

“I’m going to say they shouldn’t have went the course they went,” Richard Armstrong said. “They should have come to me and ask me for help. They should not have done what they done.”

Armstrong said the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as the Kentucky State Police and television news stations were contacted about the condition of the animals at the Tri-County Animal Shelter.

“They did all this without my knowledge,” Joy Armstrong said. “That’s just not the way to do business.”

“We aren’t keeping Darrian and Chelsey out by no means,” Joy said. “Leaving the key out there was probably not a good idea anyways.”

“We are only asking them to abide by the rules and try to be civil,” Armstrong said. “They’ve not had any contact with me, they’ve not tried to speak with me …”

Joy Armstrong said Wallace and Daffron mostly contacted her on issues with the shelter.

“Darrian wanted to do rescue only and I told her that I didn’t think we could do only rescue,” Joy said.

According to judge Armstrong, this was one case where he tried to help the people and the shelter and it turned up being a bad call.

“By trying to do good, we got hammered,” Armstrong said.

Since the Facebook post, the Clinton County Judge/Executive’s office has fielded a lot of calls and they are trying to deal with them all the best they can according to Joy Armstrong.

“We’ve tried to explain to them the best we can. We don’t have the funds,” Joy Armstrong said. “Those videos, yeah, I thought they looked awful, but I don’t think that’s the way it is all the time. Yeah you are going to see some poop and its going to smell.”

If something positive can come from this it would be good according to Joy Armstrong.

“I don’t like to see animals mistreated, but if we could get donations or help that would be great,” Joy Armstrong said.

Both judge and deputy judge Armstrong agreed that James and Seth Stonecipher are doing a good job.

“I’ve spent some time in the shelter and we are open for suggestions,” Joy said. “We will take donations for the animal shelter. We don’t have the money to treat every animal that comes into the shelter. These girls have saved a lot of animals. I think, for the most part, James and Seth have cooperated with them and kept those dogs for as long as they could.”

During an interview Thursday morning, judge Armstrong spoke with Seth Stonecipher on the phone and he told judge Armstrong the cages were cleaned out every morning. It was also stated the animals get water all throughout the day and all animals are fed before they leave in the afternoon.

Kathryn Callahan, Kentucky State Director, The Humane Society of the United States, met at the Tri-County Animal Shelter with Clinton County Judge/Executive Richard Armstrong and Clinton County Animal Control officers James Stonecipher and Seth Stonecipher. Paula Owens, who volunteers at the Tri County Shelter, also arrived during the meeting with Callahan and was on hand for most of the gathering.

Callahan noted a presence of bacteria when she first entered the front hallway of the building, noting that she did detect a smell,. She noted that proper ventilation should be provided and suggested that the building be inspected by a Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning company (HVAC) to make sure that the air in the building is being exchanged at a proper rate to eliminate odors.

Callahan provided Stonecipher a collection of materials that she said were some of the best guidelines available as to the proper and best ways to operate, maintain and properly operate an animal shelter, including checklists and

It takes you through the process of how to do a self-evaluation “

Those materials also included a copy of Kentucky laws that govern animal shelters standard and she explained that those laws are considered to be the minimum standards that every shelter must abide by in order to be considered being legally operating.

Some of those regulations, she explained, included rules that stated male and female dogs should be separated, dogs and cats were to be housed in separate areas and all sick animals should be further separated from the other animals in a quarantine or isolated situation.

She also noted that sick or injured animals should be properly treated with veterinary care.

Callahan asked Stonecipher if any animals were housed outside during winter months and told here the only times in the winter that animal were outside in the weather would be when the cages were being cleaned and that they were brought back in as soon as the cleaning operations were completed.

She discussed cleaning and sanitation measures and offered several suggestions as to how the cleaning could best be accomplished as well as ways that costs could be cut down or kept to a minimum.

She also suggested that the staff could perhaps pick a nearby shelter that had a good operating record, and ask to spend a day at the shelter, observing and even working in a hands-on environment to learn some of the best practices.

One of the best shelters in this area is a private shelter that has a contract with the county in Barren County, Glasgow – Kentucky . She noted that the shelter has a new director and she could provide contract information for Stonecipher and any others who might want to view the practices at that shelter.

Callahan also discussed euthanasia methods and practices with Seth Stonecipher, who is the staff member at the Shelter certified by the state of Kentucky to perform the euthanasia operations on animals that must be put down.

She also said that a clean and constant supply of water should be provided for the animals being housed in the shelter, noting that a lack of water was one of the most common complaints she had heard from the local shelter.

She added that the length of times an animal must be housed at the shelter also differed, depending on how the animal came in. Stray animals that were picked up by control officers must be housed for a minimum of five days. However animals that are surrendered by their owners, do not have a minimum length of stay period at all and can be rescued or transferred immediately.

The group also discussed some of the practices the shelter uses pertaining to the housing of stray and surrendered cats. Judge Armstrong noted that for the first 13 years or so after the Shelter was built, the use of litter boxes and cat litter was non-existent, but that for the past year, boxes and litter had been in use rather than just allowing the cat litter to drop through the cage onto the floor. Callahan suggested using cardboard trays that canned goods are shipped in rather than plastic trays, noting that the cardboard versions could generally be acquired free of charge from local grocery stores, and could simply be disposed of rather than cleaned out after a few days of use.

Callahan also suggested researching the many grants that were available to help fund the expenses encountered with operating an animal shelter and Armstrong agreed that grants would be very helpful. He also added that the Twin Lakes Cattleman’s Association had already given a sizable grant to the shelter, and had indicated the group would continue to make the grant donation on a yearly basis.

“We can also take donations,” Armstrong said. “I have learned that private donations are allowed too, if anyone who loves dogs and animals wants to help , they can contact my office and make a donation of any size.”

Callahan also said her organization would also provide law enforcement training for the control officers, as well as any law enforcement officer who needed to obtain additional training that might involve situations such as working to investigate dog fighting operations or even cock fighting operations.

She also suggested using media and social media to post photos of animals that are in the shelter.

When the session moved into the rear areas where the animals are kept, Callahan pointed out a few areas in the fencing that separates the animals where some repairs should be made, noting that in one case, adjacent dogs could actually reach each other through damaged or missing areas and in another case, an animal could become injured due to a ragged piece of chain-link fencing.

During the inspection of the three separate rooms where animals are housed, Callahan made several suggestions and questioned some of the practices she saw that were in use and made several suggestions as to how changes could make the shelter a better environment for the animals.

Callahan also acknowledged that with her experience of working with many of the smaller counties in Kentucky that also operated animal shelters, she realized that funding and money restraints were often a problem that was encountered. Armstrong added that since the Tri-County Shelter had been in operation – some 14 years now – to his knowledge, the rates charged to the other two counties that utilize the shelter – Cumberland and Wayne – had not been raised. He said that raising those rates could be one way to help obtain some much needed funding for the project.

Several residents joined the Clinton County Fiscal Court and Animal Control officials Monday night in the courthouse for a special meeting of the fiscal court. The meeting was scheduled to examine complaints and issues that had been brought regarding conditions and practices at Tri-County Animal Shelter.