Fayette commissioners in doghouse after animal shelter vote

The July 13 meeting of the Fayette County Commission was packed with people. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Policy change extends safe shelter stay for animals before considering euthanasia; Humane Society upset at county’s refusal to move toward ‘no-kill’

Four Fayette County commissioners said yes Thursday night to an extended timetable for housing dogs, cats and assorted other animals at the Fayette County Animal Shelter. The change didn’t go far enough for Commissioner Steve Brown and many in the packed house, some of whom vocally expressed their disapproval of the decision.

The new policy, adopted in a 4-1 vote, extended from five to 30 days the period in which newly arrived animals are housed and put up for adoption before the shelter makes a decision to euthanize an unadoptable animal.

What upset a lot of animal lovers in the audience was the parallel decision to stop working on a proposed ordinance being advanced by Commissioner Steve Brown and representatives of the Fayette County Humane Society.

“We will continue our efforts to help send the direction of our shelter towards no-kill,” Fayette County Humane Society President Stephanie Cohran said in a statement Thursday. “There is no reason why our county, as affluent and educated as it is, could not be a top notch no-kill shelter.” A no-kill shelter is one in which fewer than one in every 10 animals taken in is later euthanized.

“I was appalled at the underhanded tactics used, and the forced agenda item’s approval (removal) that was used,” Cohran said. “I urge each citizen to review the video of [the July 13] meeting to see for yourself how it was indicated that we (the animal advocates and the citizens), if we cared, would be working together for a solution. We were, and spent over six months trying to do so, to have it all thrown out the window last night.”

As for the adopted policy, it establishes a three-step approach to enhance adoptable animal management. The policy provides an additional 25 days past the currently-required 5-day hold period, creates a notification process for appropriate humane and rescue agencies and establishes a capacity threshold of 75 percent of available cages.

An amendment to the policy added the provisions that humane and rescue groups be notified on Day 6 and Day 20, to give additional time for adoption.

Another amended provision included the statement that the shelter will be managed in a way that considers the preservation of life.

Commissioner Randy Ognio on Thursday responded to questions about his inclusion of stopping work on the ordinance in his motion.

Ognio said Brown during the past several months had worked with advocacy groups, with the result of some of that work coming in the form of an ordinance developed by an attorney working with the group. Brown during the meeting noted the work he and others had performed on the proposed ordinance.

Some of the provisions of the ordinance included items for which the county could not comply, Ognio said, necessitating the need for County Attorney Dennis Davenport to spend sufficient time to review the ordinance beyond the time he already allotted.

Ognio took the position that Brown should have officially asked commissioners to direct Davenport, and hence spend additional funds, to conduct a thorough review.

“Can one commissioner actually commit funds not budgeted without the consensus of the whole board?” Ognio asked.

Brown during the discussion on the motion strongly advocated for the need for the ordinance, expressing his near disbelief that stopping work on the ordinance had been included in the motion.

Often directing his comments to the audience, Brown quickly found support for his stance.

In the end the vote was taken, and Brown, along with nearly 200 people in attendance, left the commission chambers.