Animal Rescue of the Week: Episode 43 – Barktown Rescue

Barktown Rescue is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization located in Boston, Kentucky. Seeing a need in their community, two volunteers first got their start working with Nelson County Animal Control to send dogs to rescues all over the country. Even with their best efforts, hundreds of adoptable dogs were being euthanized every year in Nelson County. The two realized the most effective way to make a difference in their community was to start their own rescue, and from there Barktown Rescue was founded in August 2009. They have recently marked a special milestone this year when the 3500th Barktown dog was adopted.


Welcome to the ARPA Animal Rescue of the Week podcast, featuring outstanding organizations around the country that are helping animals & the people who rescue them. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues & shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal rescue.

Barktown Rescue, located in Kentucky, was founded in 2009 by two eager volunteers with the hopes to reduce the number of euthanized dogs in their community. Since its opening, Barktown has grown exponentially going from two volunteers to now more than 80. The dogs that come into their care are shown love and compassion while they wait for the perfect adoptive family to come along.

Hi Heather, welcome to the show. Hello. How you doing today? I am great. How are you doing? Oh, I’m doing fairly well. Another day, you know? So you’re the President at the Barktown Rescue in Kentucky, is that right? That is correct, yes. All right, so let’s jump right in here. Can you tell me a little bit about your organization and where exactly you guys are located in Kentucky? We are located in Boston, Kentucky, and it is a very small rural area. So not many people, when they hear over Boston, they probably think of Boston, Massachusetts. I have to clarify that for them quickly, but it’s actually outside of the Bardstown area, which is probably about 30 to 45 minutes south of Louisville. Now, many people have heard of Louisville, so probably the best way to describe where we’re located. And we have actually been a rescue, a nonprofit since 2009. It was created by a couple of people who they were volunteering at the county shelter and to help, just through like, networking and transports, to trying to get animals just out of the county shelter, where they do, unfortunately, euthanize there, just to save as many as possible. And then they just, kind of, saw the need in the community to open up the no-kill animal rescue. Well it was all foster-based, from 2009 to 2014.

We were very, very fortunate to run across a very nice gentleman who had bought this old elementary school and they had built a new school down the road. So it was just one of those things that they were upgrading to a new school, and he bought it. He actually is in Texas. He’s an attorney in Texas. Anyway, so he bought the property with the intentions of either making it like a transport stop, because he is involved in some transports and things there. And then we were just lucky. He was just kind of looking around and found us, and ends up donating that building into us. Wow. He is still around to this day, like he is still so helpful, comes up and visits, and he is just so supportive. Anyway, we kind of blew up from there. It kind of happened fast. When a rescue goes in and they have to pick and choose, you have to find a dog that you could be relatively fast. And the majority of our dogs are like that, the very adoptable dogs. But we are able to have some, and we’ve had them for years, actually.

However, had we not had that facility, the alternative would be, they would have been euthanized. And maybe they have a behavioral issue, one specifically, is Stormy and we have literally had her since right before we opened the building up in 2014. And the only thing wrong with Stormy is that she has a very high prey drive. So she does not get along with other animals. She is very, very great with people. She is great with children and she is so smart. And I actually have had a trainer come out and evaluate the few dogs that we have that have like a behavioral issue so we can work with them so we can figure out what exactly they need. And he loved her, he said, “she is some smart. She’s very trainable. We have to just find the right person that’s willing to do that with her.” Yeah. And it may be us. We might put her through it, but we can put an animal through so much training, but you have to constantly keep that training. Yeah. So the person that takes the dog is gonna have to continue to work with them.

So having that building has helped us to be able to help a little bit harder to adopt animals, and I think that that’s significant because not everyone is in a position, even our foster base is not necessarily in that position to be able to take a dog like that. I think that that’s great, overall, that you guys have somebody that thought about you guys and was willing to donate this building for you and just from here and you talk about it. It really sounds like that was a huge benefit for you guys and it really helped you guys growth-wise, too. It has helped us grow. I mean, as far as our intake, we and take more than we did were foster-based.

I’ll be honest here, lately, things have been moving a little bit slow on both ends. But I think that’s the rescues in our area. I have talked with them and it’s just been kind of weird this year. I think it’s just our area. Our shelters are overloaded, all the rescues are out, everyone’s overloaded. Kentucky isn’t exactly known for having great animal laws. So we have that battle with the animal cruelty laws and things like that. And then people just they can get away with dumping a dog off. Even if someone physically sees a person do that, there’s really not anything that can be done about it. There are resources in the area, for spay and neuter, a lot of it’s changed in the communities mentality, which were slowly working on. It’s a generation gap, too. Older generations, at least around here, they don’t think the same way that we do in terms of how animal care goes. They’re older and it’s this mentality and the thought that they don’t love animals, it’s just different.

And this particular person. I’ve felt like I’ve really won, in a sense, because this person loves to hunt. And dogs here, we have a lot of hound dogs and things, either he goes for rabbit hunting or compounds for raccoon hunting, or sometimes even like those kind of dogs will be open to your hunt. But we have a lot of the hunting type dogs. And I have nothing personally against anyone who wants to use a dog for hunting. I love the country myself. I know how these people think. They just look at those animals as jobs. They take care of him as long as they’re doing that job for them. If they don’t do the job room they get dumped in shelters. So our shelters are overloaded with hounds, and that’s probably the best that they do them. Sometimes they leave him out in the field and shoot them. It’s not uncommon around here, unfortunately. But this one particular person, he ended up taking the dog for him because he was gonna shoot that dog in the field. And I would have never thought that this person had ever done that because he’s not an animal person and he has dogs and he takes care of his dogs, and he would never harm a dog in that way. But they’re not family to him. Much of my trying to educate, maybe to him I was nagging, I don’t know, but whatever it was, it got to him enough that he took that dog, so now he has the dog. So hopefully he got to see what I see and how that that’s just wrong and you can’t do that. And that’s no way to treat an animal. And, kind of, like I use the analogy of the Grinch. So I said, if I can make that particular person, I could make their heart a little bit bigger toward an animal then I feel like I’ve won.

I think that’s where you have to start around here. It’s just changing people’s mentality with animals. I think anyone that could neglect or harm an animal in any way, they could definitely do that to a human. So I think it goes hand in hand. I’m not sure what our lawmakers here in the state don’t understand in that. I think we’re slowly getting there. But we just passed a law for bestiality., they just now made that illegal in our state, this year. It is 2019 and they just made that illegal, and of course, no one wants to even think about that. It sickens me to even think about it. Yeah. That you even have to make a law for that? Exactly. There is there is some evil in the world. That was a win that we made it that far on dog fighting law, it has gotten a little bit stricter, so I think that our voice—the animal rescuers voice– in Kentucky is making some progress, but we’re still nowhere where we need to be. Hopefully when the next 10 years–I’m saying ten loosely, I would love to see it now. Realistically, the way the government works, that’s never a fast process. You’re right, you know, from state to state. Things are so different. And that is one of the things that I find most interesting about talking to different organizations in different states is because people do not realize that just because things are the way they are when it comes to animals in the state that they’re living in, it’s not that way for every state. Right.

And that is like one of the biggest things that is just eye opening for me, because I’m new at talking to people on these podcasts, and I’ve talked to a few in multiple states and literally from talking to all of you. You all have different battles that you’re facing, and majority of them are due to the state that you live in and the laws. And probably even the resources. One thing that some of our county shelters are doing now. I mean, there’s so many rescues in our state of Kentucky, and believe me, we all do the very best we can. But we have limited resources, and every rescue has limited resources. Yes. But any of the county shelters they have been sending animals, getting them on transports, to rescues up north, even into Canada. And they will pretty much have a forever home right waiting for them as soon as they get there, which is amazing. Yes. But when it takes us a little bit longer and you know financially there’s more resources. That’s just the way that it is in every state is different with that, too, on how many resources there are, and things like that. So we just work with our resources that we have in the area and trying to help people find those resources. Sometimes it feels like it’s a never ending battle, though. You’re absolutely right. It’s a never ending battle. It’s almost like work that’s never going to be done.

And to be honest with you, we are 98% volunteer. We’ll have a very limited set of only two people. Oh wow. So do we need more staff? We do. Are we there yet? No we are not, definitely. We are 100% donation-based. We live off of monetary donations, and when people send 50 bags of dog food at one time, we don’t have to buy that, and that is a huge help. So with our laws not being strict, the county shelters barely get any funding. So they’re not going to be able to send funding to private organizations like us. So we get zero government funding. The city, state, federal or any that were 100% donation-based. That’s good, you take a step, and right now things may be hard. But like you said, you hope that the state of Kentucky, in general, will change it’s laws. And until then, you know, you guys are doing what you’re doing because you guys believe in it, and you guys know that it’s making a difference.

So I’m just kind of curious. I mean, you kind of shared with me your community, both the good and the bad of it. Do you guys put on any events or fundraisers? Or do you guys even offer any programs to the people of your community? As far as fundraising goes, we do as much fundraising as we can. We have a fundraiser coming up and it’s been our yearly fundraiser. We played around with dates, so we’re gonna do a date in the spring, and it’s gonna be March 28th. That’s our one of our biggest fundraisers. Its called our Bark Bash. It’s basically like a gala events or dinner, there’s an auction. This year we’re making it more family oriented, kind of like a circus thing. Oh okay. Because, you know, kids should be involved with rescue as well. And if they want to go out as a family, that’s a good way to spend the night. And it’ll be a fun event. We have a Poker Run every year, and that’s always In August. There is a group called the Travelers Widow’s Sons, of course the Widow’s Sons is known throughout the United States. But this group, this chapter, is called the Travelers Widow’s Sons. They do a lot of charity rides and things like that. Lots of them are animal lovers, and they reached out to us, a few years ago, they called on our first Poker Run in 2016. I want to say we made a few thousand dollars. We made like $3000. They’ve done it every year. When we had it this past August, they raised most for us that they’ve ever raised, and we hit the 10 grand mark, and it’s also grown from maybe 50 bikes to almost a hundred bikes. We’re gonna hit 100 bikes next year, I’m certain of that. They were such a great group of people, and, you know, I’m very, very thankful for them every day. We’ve got a really great working relationship with them. They support animal rescue, they support us. Because of them, the last two years we’re able to do some of our bigger projects.

With the Poker Run proceeds, there’s always challenges of having an older building. Just like I live in an older house. There’s always challenges to having something that’s old. But there’s also advantages, too, because one, people just really want to see an old elementary school that has been turned into an animal rescue we’re sheltered. Whatever term you want to use, and we get such a good response from the community on it, because they’ll be like “this is just the neatest thing.” And obviously animal rescue could be stressful at times. It always seems like when times get tough, that’s when something happens. Oh yeah. And you know it’s gonna be okay.

Bruce Flint, he’s an attorney in Texas who donated the building to us. He’s just been wonderful. I talk to him all the time. He always asks us if we need anything. And sometimes if we need things, I won’t tell him because he’s just been so supportive and more than just financially. I mean, he always compliments on the volunteers and how hard that they work. And another for me personally, he always make sure that I’m okay. And he’s just such a great man. It’s literally like he fell from heaven. He was like “here you go.” And then I don’t think that I could ever say thank you enough to him. And I’m just so appreciative of him, appreciative of our volunteers and of our community because we need more volunteers. Like I said, we’re out this little country place, a little rural area. So getting volunteers is not the easiest thing in the world. And volunteering at our building, it’s hard work. It’s getting the dogs in and out, and we do this twice a day. We have morning shifts and night shifts because they want to make sure that they at least get out more than once a day.

We do have a really good volunteer family. It’s like we’ve become family. We probably have about 20 consistent volunteers that are there all the time. We’ve got a couple of volunteers. Volunteer Coordinator Justice. He literally lives right up the road. There’s another volunteer, Leona, that lives right up the road. They have keys. If something at work comes up, they could be right there. So we really got some dedicated people. We need more dedicated people. There’s always a need for that. I mean and people come and go. People volunteer for a while and then life happens. But I’m appreciative of our volunteers. They know our frustrations, and they definitely do their best to help. And one thing that they are good at is also reaching out to the community and get help. They’ll make their family members come, I know I make my family members come. I am very grateful for them and probably more than they know, because we can’t do it without volunteers. Yeah, that’s a huge step that you guys all rely on each other and you’re all like a big family.

And you have mentioned that you guys can always use more volunteers. If somebody wanted to volunteer at your organization, how can they go about getting in contact with you to do that? Obviously, they would have to be local to volunteer. Yeah. But there could be volunteers that want to help that have experience with marketing, for example. They can do things from their laptop or from their phone. But for our local volunteers, we do have a volunteer meeting. It is usually the third Sunday of every month at 3 p.m. We’ve already had it for this month. We’re not gonna have it for December just because we actually have one of our third biggest fundraiser, now. This is our second year doing this fundraiser, so it runs at the same time as that. So there’s just too much going on. So we will resume those volunteer meetings the third Sunday in January. As long as the weather is great. Or they can reach out to us through our Facebook page. They can email us at, which is on our website, the I usually will forward those e mails to either our Volunteer Coordinators. And we try to set up an orientation from there.

There’s many ways, you can always come in and volunteer at the building. That’s what we need the most, But we need people that love to get out there and fundraise. I always tell people there is always a place where we need you, if you can’t physically do all the dirty work–I like to call it–because we all know it’s dirty work at the building. If it’s not your thing or something you can’t do, but maybe you have a talent to fundraise, maybe you have fundraised for another organization before that would be great, because we need more help with that. Maybe you have ideas on how to collect more monthly donors because that would be huge if we could get a certain amount of monthly donors every month. That helps switches are average monthly costs, but we do have a two staff payroll that includes our utilities that includes, like our insurance and things like that. And then our vet costs, that kind of varies. We’ve had some special cases this year, but we make monthly vet payments to him, and right now we’re paying with two different vets and a specialty that for convening, he goes to an acupuncturist to try to get his back legs working and walking and getting walking again. It’s not always like that, but it just does kind of depends on what we need. Luckily, we’ve got great mix that do you give us a discount, but as one of the questions we get here of “why the vets can’t do our rescue animals for free?” Well, they too, have to make money. They’re discounting it, but you know, it’s very expensive to house pets. So they do a lot for us and they support us, and that’s all I can ask for. And they love our animals. They treat our animals like family, and that means a lot to me. So you could probably average our costs to be about six grand a month. There’s times we get that there’s times we don’t. It just depends on the time of year. Our fundraiser’s are coming up.

We work with feeder supply. They’re not known throughout the United States, but they’re known regionally. They’re a pet supply store, they do a lot of risky work with Kentucky Humane Society. They’ve been doing this for several years. The Picture Your Pets with Santa, Kentucky Humane gives some of the stores to local rescues, and it wasn’t up until last year when they opened up a new store in Shelbyville, Kentucky, which is it’s a ways from us. But I said I didn’t hear if I had my whole family up there working. We were put on a waiting list to get this event, and we got it last year. So this is our second year going into. It is the first 2 weekends of December, and we have much success last year with it for our first year. So I’m expecting much more success this year out of it, and that will help us get the winter. Winter time’s a slower time It’s a slower home for adoption. It’s just slower time, in general, so that helps us kind of get through that little rough patch many times.

You pointed out some great things about your organization from talking to me. And, you know, I really hope that your guys’ upcoming events turns out great. I know that you said last year it was amazing. So I hope that this year turns out just as amazing, if not more. And just from talking you, I’ve learned so much, not just about your organization and everything like that, but about your state that you’re living in the struggles that you guys are facing. But also, I love that you put a spin on it and you’ve expressed to me and shared with me how you plan to go about possibly changing those to have a better aspect and a better turn around, I guess. And so I couldn’t be more grateful and thankful that you took the time to talk with us today. And I really hope the best for you guys. And I would love to check back in with you guys in a few months to see how you guys are going. And, you know, how’s everything working for you guys? Sure, sure, that would be great. I appreciate you reaching out to us because I always feel like the more people that know about us, the better off we are. So any time we can do something that’s gonna get our name out there, I think that’s always a positive.

Today I was so excited because I’ve got an application on one of our cats from another state. An I’m like, “really?” We adopt out of state. Everyone has that “they see something special in that puppy or that dog, and they want that”. Yes. So it’s not uncommon for us to adopt out of state, but I said “they must really love our cat.” And the cat, literally, like, came out from underneath our dumpster. And he was starving like he was hungry, so we took him in. And because sometimes I have a weird sense of humor I named him Marvin as in ‘Starving Marvin’ but, you know, sometimes you just have to have a sense of humor about things sometimes. And he does respond to his name. But I said “someone, you know, from this other state hundreds of miles away, wants our sweet Marvin,” who was just a common cat. Like he’s just the most common cat, but there’s something that they love about him. So that was amazing to me, And it very much made my week.

Oh, yeah, and you know what? I mean, I’m totally with you, two of my cats we have found in the dumpster and they were just in a little box and they were so tiny and they couldn’t get out. You know, me and my husband are like, “you know what? That’s like leaving two little babies in there”, and he took him in and we tried surrendering them, but, you know, unfortunately, our local humane society, they charge an arm and a leg for owner surrenders. So we ended up keeping these two beautiful and they’re both boys, and they are the cutest cats. I mean, I love all animals, but I don’t know. I’m learning now, that I’m getting a little bit older, that I’m a cat person. And everybody always jokes with me that I’m gonna be this old cat lady and I’m like, “that’s perfectly fine.” But I’m with you that when you see that little face of the dog or the cat, or you know any animals for that matter, you just know.

And I love that you get creative with their names. You know, you mentioned the puppies were the Spice Girls. Now you’ve got Marvin from Starving Marvin, and I love that, and that shines light that you shared such a, I guess, like a memorable story with me. That’s the best part about talking with you guys and, you know, understanding the hardships that you go through but also the light at the end of the tunnel. When we have some really hard times, and I could talk to you much longer to tell you of different stories. I could talk all day about my stories. My husband calls me the Erin Brockovich of the dog and cat world. I could tell you animals that we’ve had a year ago what their names were, when we had them, you know. I don’t really remember the adopter’s name, but I remember everything about that animal. And so I remember so many stories. But that’s what is so rewarding. And this is why we go through what we go through, is to see the end result is that forever home, and that adoption.

And believe me, I’ve kept my own fair share of fosters. The dogs you heard barking earlier were two foster failures and our little foster dog that I just couldn’t–once we got his leg amputated, I guess when he was hit by hard, I don’t know how long he was in a ditch, but he was in a ditch for quite some time, so we picked him up, took him to the local shelter. They reached out, they fell in love with him, and they told me how much I was gonna fall in love with him. And “I am not going to be a foster failure with this little guy,” but he is the sweetest little guy, and he has picked up the habits of my dogs that everything just makes them wanna bark. That’s pretty understandable. Hopefully, I could get him adopted without the bad habit he gets from my dogs, so. Well, you know what? It’s okay. My dog barks at every little thing and we still adore him, and I mean, he’s a big dog, so we adore him, we love him. That’s part of his personality, just like I’m sure it’s a part of, you know, your little pups’ personality.

So I definitely want to express how thankful I am that you are sharing your story with us today. And is there anything else that you’d like to share with us before we wrap things up today? I guess if there’s anything that I would like to share, just maybe to direct people, to check out our website. They can learn about us there. We have a Facebook page. We do have an Instagram. I’m not as savvy with that yet, I’m a little bit of school still, but we’re learning there. And if anyone’s interested in that, often we’ve got some really great dogs, and we do work very, very hard. But I can say with what we’ve got. And one last thing, I guess I could say about our volunteers is that they love every single rescue animal that we have there, like they love their own. You know, they cry with this when they get adopted. It’s bittersweet. My husband has never been able to understand it, but–. It’s a happy cry. It’s sad that you’re not going to see them anymore, but you’re super happy that they were going to a loving family. That would be me. You’re very happy, you’re going to miss them, but you don’t want to see them come back. Many people keep in touch with us, so we get lots of updates. And so that’s always good. Well, that’s so sweet to hear, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for you guys. And thank you so much for talking with us today, Heather. Thank you for having me. Of course, have a good rest of your day. You too.

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