From storage space to animal refuge: stray animals to have new home

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Reporter - Todd Faulkner
Photojournalist - Chad Darnall

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky. — A fresh start is the driving force behind a new animal shelter.

This comes after an investigation involving the McCracken County Humane Society. Last week, the McCracken County Sheriff's Department arrested former employee Beau Anderson for improperly euthanizing animals.

That investigation showed at least 8,000 animals were improperly euthanized. Then came the troubling undercover video from an employee showing mistreatment of both living and deceased animals at the privately-run facility.

Sunday night, McCracken County Humane Society Director Shirley Grimes announced her intention to resign during next month's board meeting.

Sheriff Jon Hayden wouldn't comment on the potential for any impending arrests or charges in connection to the criminal investigation. He said the county attorney's office is reviewing the entire case.

"There's just so much turmoil at the moment with the Humane Society and a lot of people just don't feel comfortable taking animals there," Hayden said.

County leaders set up a temporary shelter as an alternative to the Humane Society and now have plans to move into a permanent shelter.

"There was a great need for a location to put an animal shelter, whether it be temporary or permanent," Sheriff Hayden said.

The large white building is a former storage space for the Sheriff's Department and sits along County Park Road. Sheriff Hayden made sure the shelves and offices were clear and the floor space was empty.

For years, the unit housed tax records, photographs, uniforms and old case files.

"They've talked about putting kennel runs on the outside and have little doorways for the dogs to run in and out of," Hayden said.

The space is needed because, for now, the county has severed ties to the Humane Society.

"The decision may still be up in the air on whether or not this will be permanent from now on or a temporary permanent location until the situation with the Humane Society is resolved," Hayden said.

It's a situation that tugged at the heartstrings of 9th Grader Cassidi Peck. She's collecting money to buy food and other items for animals at the new county shelter.

'It makes me happy that they're making this new shelter," Peck said. "It makes me feel a lot better because it saves so many more animals' lives. I just wish this came sooner for those 8,000 animals that were killed."

That's a fact weighing on Hayden's mind as he and others work to provide a new space for the animals and create an alternative to the McCracken County Humane Society.

"A lot of people just don't feel comfortable taking animals there until there's some assurances that things are going to be done in a legally and in a humane manner," Sheriff Hayden said.

It's not clear how much money it will take to operate the new county shelter once it's completed.

The McCracken County Humane Society is still open and allowing people to adopt pets. The society no longer accepts new pets for now and it's not clear when they'll start again in the future. Right now, there are 22 dogs and 15 cats that need new homes.

The McCracken County Judge Executive's Office is overseeing the renovation of the new shelter. Work is expected to begin some time next week. No word on how long the renovations will take or when the new shelter is expected to open.

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