Fiscal Court drafting ordinance to control a doggone problem
by Heather Tomlinson Commonwealth Journal
Pulaski County got some national attention recently with the raiding of a local puppy mill.
Now local, state, and national animal protection agencies are seeking a commitment from county officials that similar situations will be prevented.
“We have national attention here right now in our county because of this puppy mill situation,” said Cherie Emmons, with the local Love on a Leash and Lake Cumberland Kennel Club. “This is a great opportunity for us as a community to coalesce and do something so that these things don’t happen again.”
It was during the Jan. 28 Pulaski County Fiscal Court meeting that a number of volunteers and administrators with several animal welfare agencies flooded the fiscal courtroom, asking that county officials consider making significant changes to their current animal welfare ordinance in the aftermath of the Jan. 21 seizure of more than 40 animals from the Dream Catchers Kennel, located on Ky.. 196 in Nancy.
The kennel owner, Dennis Bradley, 61, pleaded guilty that same week to one count of second-degree animal cruelty. As part of the deal, Bradley agreed to surrender the dogs at his facility and will face six months in jail, probated for a term of 24 months.
The guilty plea came after more than a year of legal wrangling between Bradley, county officials, and local investigators, who had been called in to investigate the situation after undercover video surfaced that had been taken at the kennel showing dogs being kept in poor conditions.
County officials had stated the county was unable to fund the removal of all the animals before the plea deal was reached because of limited financial resources and space. When animals are seized as part of a criminal case, they must be kept in holding as possible evidence until the case is resolved.
“I’ve talked to a lot of counties about the issues they face regarding animal welfare,” said Kathryn Callahan, a Louisville-based attorney who focuses on animal welfare cases and also sits on the board for a statewide animal protection organization called the Arrow Fund.
Callahan said Kentucky’s county governments are left dealing with the financial burden of caring for the animals after a seizure — some of which can involve many, many more animals than the approximate 45 taken from Bradley’s property.
“That’s a big responsibility for a county if something goes wrong,” said Callahan. “Those animals are dumped on the government, and the person moves to another county, unless you have something in place that would protect your county.”
Callahan asked that fiscal court look into updating and strengthening its current animal welfare ordinance to include fines, regulations for breeders, tax regulations, and more.
Emmons, additionally, asked for licensing laws that would prevent overbreeding and require that animal breeders keep their animals in satisfactory conditions.
Pam Rogers, the Kentucky State Director of the Humane Society of the U.S., also appeared and suggested that those accused of animal neglect be required to post bonds that would cover the costs of caring and housing the affected animals.
“I am suggesting you take a look at what ordinances you have and what ordinances are available to you,” said Callahan, who pointed out that Pulaski County officials can look to other counties in drafting an updated ordinance. “ ... What is in the best interest of those animals? What is humane? You can define that in your ordinance.”
Bradley operated his kennel as a non-profit agency, although he sold puppies for several hundred dollars, according to the undercover videos that were taken. When investigators with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department first stepped foot on the property, in January 2013, they came across more than 60 dogs, many of them kept in small, dirty cages. Some of the were so ill they had to be euthanized.
By the time the Jan. 21, 2014 seizure happened, Bradley had around 45 animals total. The ASPCA and the Kentucky Humane Society stepped in to help confiscate the animals. The dogs have remained at a temporary shelter in Louisville undergoing medical evaluations and behavioral tests.
Rogers said county officials shouldn’t hesitate to seek help from animal welfare agencies.
“I’m here in Kentucky and we have an entire team ... we have tractor trailers, we have satellite trucks, all the things you need to respond to a disaster,” said Rogers. “ ... We have all these services available to help. So just know that we’re ... here to help you.”
Bullock said he and other county officials would be glad to scrutinize the ordinance.
“We’d be happy to look at the ordinance. We want to do whatever we can do to prevent this kind of thing from happening ... this Dream Catcher thing has been a nightmare,” said Bullock, who added they appreciated the help they received in the case.
Emmons said local volunteers are hopeful the county can set a precedent for other counties to follow in drafting animal protection ordinances.
“If ... we hold these people accountable, there will be less and less of this,” said Emmons. “ ... If we have the laws and set the standards, other communities will do the same.”