Animal Shelter of the Week: Episode 35 – Pulaski County Animal Shelter

The Pulaski County Animal Shelter takes animal rescue very seriously. They work with their county’s Animal Control Officers to save abused and neglected animals but they don’t stop there. Volunteers and staff do their best to give these animals a second chance at life by hosting adoption events at local businesses and even applying for grants to help their spay and neuter programs in efforts to end overpopulation.


Welcome to the ARPA Animal Shelter of the week podcast where we introduce you to incredible organizations around the country that are focused on helping animals. We’re proud to be sponsored by Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal shelter.

Hey, Adam and Charlotte, welcome to the show. Good morning, Rachael. How are you? Good morning. Yeah, I’m doing great. I’m really excited to have you guys today. You are both from Pulaski County Animal Shelter, located in Kentucky. And I want to know a little bit more about you guys and then a little bit of the history on Pulaski Counties. Why don’t you start us off? Okay. I’m Assistant Director. I have been here for eight and a half years. We have grown a lot in the eight and a half years I’ve been here. All for the better and hoping to even grow even more. So eight and a half years is a pretty long time with one specific organization.

And so Adam tell us a little bit about you. How long have you been with Pulaski? I’ve been here March 14, 2016. I’ve been here a little over three years. When I first took this job over, of course, I have a degree in criminal justice, so they more or less was looking for the animal control side. But when I took over, the record of animals were—I really didn’t know what I was doing. So Charlotte and I work really good together. She’s taught me a lot. Like she said, we’re just trying to change this—actually want to be the leading adoption shelter out of Kentucky. That’s more or less our goal. We want to get all the animals out that we can. Unfortunately, some we can’t, but like I said, we’re learning as we go.

I really think that’s cool and I love that that’s such a big goal for you guys, is to be the leading organization for adoptions in Kentucky. That’s a huge goal and hopefully have some small winds built into that play or otherwise that’s pretty overwhelming. You know, to come in every day and know that that’s such a big goal to reach. So I think that’s really cool. And I love that you guys have a good working relationship and you’re aligned in what you’re looking for.

So why don’t you tell us a little bit about the history of Pulaski County and where are you guys located? We’re located on Lake Cumberland. So if anyone is familiar with Pulaski County and Lake Cumberland, it’s where all everybody can go boating. We’re one of the largest counties in Kentucky, third largest county in Kentucky. And how long is Pulaski County been around for? Probably 35 years. I mean, going by the ordinances that we have against the first ordinance will be 87. That’s what I’m kind of going back, you know, trying to get the years. There’s really not a lot of history or, I guess, archives on it. I’m sure they had like an animal control officer. But as far as like having a true shelter, they did not. They did not. Yeah.

So, I want to kind of talk a little bit about what you guys’ is role there is. Adam as the Director and Animal Control person and Charlotte as the Assistant Director. Talk to me about what your day today is like there at Pulaski? Well, a soon as I get here in the morning, I make my rounds. Say good morning to all my doggies. I see what’s come in over the weekend, if I wasn’t here, then I, of course check my e mails and start moving dogs that has already got rescue commitment, off our program. Set an afternoon list then I start working on ones that’s been here the longest that can go to rescue and start working on a rescue that—I guess that’s mainly what I do even when I’m not here, I’m still on the phone trying to get dogs rescued. Yeah. That’s my morning start at the Pulaski. It’s Monday, let’s see which ones we can get moved out this week. Which one’s been here the longest that needs to get going.

So my first question is, tell me what you mean by moved out. Do you work with other organizations? We work with other rescues we send off to all of the United States. And so is that a fairly new program for you guys? Tell me a little bit how that works, because that’s the hot topic these days with organizations is moving animals to save lives and how did that program get started? And how are you finding partners to work with to send those dogs? When I first started working here, we had a couple rescues that was already working with us. Okay. We’ve got a couple of local rescues that helps us a whole lot. And they have connections with other rescues, and it takes a village to move a dog. Yeah, definitely. A lot of network, Facebook. We didn’t have Facebook when I first started. So Facebook has helped tremendously. As far as getting our dogs out there to where everybody in the world can see. And a lot of the places that we send our dog to, they have got stricter spay and neuter laws. So eventually these rescues will work with high kill shelters to help pull some of their dogs and save their dogs, and take them to the states that has, you know, a low puppy count.

And are you in charge of finding those relationships? Or do you have a team that work with you guys to kind of make sure that that program continues to grow? We have a couple rescues here that we work with and it’s really good. And they have made contacts over the years by helping us and helping the dogs in the community. I mean it just reaches out. Which is good that it happens organically. It doesn’t often happen that way. I can tell you based on the other groups that I’ve talked with, really finding those relationships and getting that to grow organically and build those relationships. That’s one of the hardest things. We’ve been very fortunate. Like I said, I worked with some really great rescues, and I do everything in my power to keep my rescues happy. They want dog testing or cat testing and stuff like that. We try to get it if they want vaccines before they go, and stuff like that. We accommodate our rescues because they’re the 85% that’s saving our dogs. I think it’s great that you’re in tune with what their needs are and you’re flexible with them because each organization, each rescue has their own set of requirements, if you will. But that’s a lot to manage and keep up on. So I can definitely see how that’s a full time job and then some. So very cool.

Adam, I want to take a few minutes and kind of talk about what you’re doing there as the Director and leading the animal control aspect of this. So tell me a little bit about what that looks like for you. Of course our animal control, there’s three officers we rotate out every third week. We run 24/7 more or less through the day, we’ll field all the calls that come through the shelter. We take every call serious, whether it is the animal running at large, abuse, neglect. 8:00 to 4:30 we’ll field the stray animals running at large. For 4:30 to 8:00 of the next morning, we try to only focus on assisting law enforcement and abuse/neglect cases.

We just focus on emergency calls only after the 4:30. In the following morning, we’ll pick back up and if we had a straight call over the night. We’ll get those calls when we come back in the next morning. The law enforcement calls that’s more or less code 300 which is someone has passed away, has an animal in the house then the emergency response team shows up, or DUI cases with the animal in the car with someone going the detention center. But we run 365, 24/7.

We’re the third largest county in Kentucky, and there’s only three of us running it. It’s definitely a full time job. No, it definitely sounds like it. I like, though, that it’s pretty structured. I think that it sounds like at this point. The community probably knows the 8:00 to 4:30 then, you know, taking those emergency cases. I love that you guys have a really strong relationship with the law enforcement. Honestly, you guys are the first group that I’ve talked with that has animal control is part of it, and so I’m really intrigued by that aspect and by those relationships.

So I want to ask Adam, is there a common denominator in some of the cases of the calls that you get in your community? With us being in Kentucky, the opioid epidemic, there’s a lot of arrests on that, whether it’s buying or selling, We get called up quite a bit throughout the night just to pick up the animals. That’s where they came in and made a raid or served a warrant. And you know, there’s animals in the house, or there’s animals they found on the property. You know, when I first started, I got a background in criminal justice. So I try to make sure myself and the sheriff or the county attorney, we’re all on the same page, and I went and met with all those guys to make sure that—to see what they expected of us. In more or less when I reach out to them, I guess we started a relationship, but I would say the common denominator would probably the opioid epidemic. That and the lot of the breeds that we take from situations like that is Pit bulls.

So what are you guys doing with those? Because I often hear from organizations, right, that that is the hardest type of dog to save. And so what are you guys doing with that? Are you working with Pit bull rescues specifically? We do, we work with Pit bull rescues. And we work with the rescues that occasionally will take at Pit bull or Pit bull mix from us. Knock on wood, we were pretty much fortunate. We don’t have to euthanize many Pit bull breeds at all for the simple fact of we’re able to either find adopters or rescue for them. Now granted, there is one occasion we that if it’s extremely aggressive, especially with dogs. That’s probably one of the biggest issues we have with our Pit bull or our Pit bull mixes, that they might be aggressive.

So I want to talk a little bit about the programs that you guys have there at Pulaski. Why don’t you tell me what you guys were doing? And what kind of resources are available to your community? The Department of Productive Agriculture, Actually has a spay and neuter grant. Once a year, we applied for that. Last year we got $2,000 with the court matching it. So that was $4,000 that we was able to put towards the spay and neuter program this year. And we’re very blessed to have visible court and a judge that’s behind us in growing.

When did that clinic happen? And when’s the next one? We’ve been doing it every year. We miss one year since I’ve been here, due to just office change and not getting the grant in in time. This year we was actually able to get the $2,000 and of course our court smashed it. We usually get it in March, and then we just schedule the spay and neuter clinic from then, once we get our money, then we advertise and we have people start signing up to get their animals spayed and neutered. How do people find out more information? Is that on your website? Or do you post it on Facebook? How do people know about that for help? We post it in the newspaper, radio, on Facebook, we put up flyers—and at courthouse. Yeah, I love that you guys are reaching out and doing that education and offering services for people who need it. I think that’s really cool.

What other programs do you guys have there at Pulaski? We do the offsite adoptions, we us volunteers, and we will go out to these businesses and set up. A lot of the businesses like two years ago we had a furniture store that paid for all the adoption. And then the petsafe that we work with. they always give out bags and coupons and stuff for animals that gets adopted through there. They have food drive for us, where did they take donations of food up, which we’ve been very fortunate with that. We’ve not had to actually buy dog food for over three years. Right, over three years. That’s incredible. I’ve never heard that before.

A lot of our community that come in and ask what we need more or less puppy food, kitten food that’s our main need really. Especially this time of the year, puppy season and kitten season. There’s all time we’re getting a phone call or somebody bringing a donation and ask. We’ve started typing up a wish list. That way we can just hand them a piece of paper and say, “we accept all donations. We’re very appreciative of all donations, but this is the items that we’re needing.”

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Yeah, I think that’s really, really incredible, especially as an animal shelter. I feel like sometimes people think animal shelters are fully funded by local government. And that’s not often the case. Is that the case with you guys? Are you funded? Yes. We are funded, however, we’re always in the uhm, I guess, the red area. But like I said, I mean, we’re very fortunate to have a county government that’s behind us.

I did want to kind of talk about community challenges or organization challenges, if you will. What are some of the things that you guys are either seeing within your organization that you’re struggling with, or maybe some community challenges that you’re trying to address? The big issue is just the dogs running at large is one of them. And the repeat offenders.

So I want to talk a little bit about both of those the repeat offenders and then the calls that you get Adam for animals that have gotten out. What’s the leading cause of that? Why are you seeing repeat offenders and getting so many calls for animals running at large? I would think just people that doesn’t care. We live in a kind of a rural community. A lot of times they either get home from work or in the morning before they go to work and just let their animal out to use the restroom. And don’t take the responsibility to go out with the animal. Whether they’re tired, they’re getting ready for work, they’re getting home fixing supper, something of that nature. And they just let the animal out. The animal takes off, it’s in the neighbor’s yard, in the garbage, or attacking another dog. So you know, we go out and try to educate the community. This is something that, yeah, this may happen when you were growing up. This is not happening now. We have laws in place to make everyone a responsible pet owner. We go out, we give him a warning. Second time, we start getting information that consists of name, birthday, address. And then third time, you guys are going to court, where cites the court that way, there’s a paper trail on this.

And another, you was asking about programs we just started last year. We had a lady from one of the middle schools here in the county. She was one of my teachers when I was in middle school. Okay. She was bringing students up and we got to focus in on going to the school and doing a spay and neuter seminar to show them the importance of spay and neuter. That way we could start kids at a younger age to get them to understand the importance of it and try to deter some of the stuff that will happen in the future.

So I often hear about educational programs, but I got to tell you, I’ve never heard somebody say specifically that they’re focusing on the importance of spay and neuter. And how is that perceived by the students? Do you find that they’re intrigued by that? Are they asking questions? We’ve done one year of it, and the kids are soaking it up. We tried to explain to them that a male dog can smell a female dog up 3 to 4 miles once she comes in heat. Right. Once she comes in, heat then your dog has possibility of taking off and being gone.

You losing your dog? Come into the animal shelter and always check the animal shelter first. For some reason, a lot of people doesn’t do that. We need to be reminded that kids are sponges. They really wanna learn and know everything. And if you can start them at a young age, then they take that knowledge home and they’re talking to their parents, and they’re talking to their siblings, and they’re talking to their friends. And so you kind of get this organic growth that happens if you can get into these schools and start educational programs. I love that that’s your main focus for an educational program is the spaying and neutering. So I think you guys are really starting at a good place.

And so I want to take a minute and kind of talk about those volunteers and those programs that you guys have. You know, whether it’s foster home program or how they’re coming in to help with the animals. We have some awesome volunteers. We have a couple of ladies that is pretty much single-handedly saved 98% of our cats this year. And that’s a large number considering the volume of the cats and kittens that we get in this time of the year. She works with cat rescues and she has her own group of fosters that can foster a mom and a litter of kittens until the kids are big enough to go to rescue. The biggest thing is just networking the pictures, networking the cat and finding the right rescues. So it is harder to move cats out into rescues. Sure. Because there’s so few of them and they fill up really fast. Definitely.

Do you guys have a foster home program as well? The reason we don’t send out fosters to homes because if they take one of our animal, first thing, they’ll be responsible for it. So if they let it get out and get hit or something other because they’re being careless or just not being careful. That’s the time they’ll have to go to the vet. We’ve never really done the home-based fostering programs. All the times, when people wants to see the dogs, they want to interact with the dogs. So that would mean the foster has to bring the dog up here, which is an inconvenience to them. If I had someone coming up, wants to see it today or it shows up today and wanting to see it but, the dog’s not here for them to visit with. Now we do work with fosters. Like I said, when our dogs have rescued, they’re going to be moving that to the rescue. They just need to go someplace for a few days or a couple weeks until they either get big or make transport. Then once the rescue pulls the dog, then it’s the rescues responsibility to get the animal fixed and keep it safe until it does get on transport.

So how does that work when you’re working with organizations outside of your county? Are they relying on your volunteers and your fosters? It works both ways. We’ve got Ellie Grant. She is a rescue plus volunteer plus a transporter. She’s a lifesaver. She’s work with us ever since I’ve been here. Some rescues require the kits before they go on transport. Of course we get all of the dogs spayed and neutered before they go on transport. And we have a gentleman, he just started three weeks ago. He comes in one day and spends the whole day cleaning cats, playing with cats, loving on cats, whatever he did it all in the cat room. He is all about the cats. We didn’t used to have these kind of volunteers. When we first started, we didn’t have the best reputation, and we’ve let more volunteers in because before it was issue, they wouldn’t like volunteers really come in. But we’ve opened our doors, it has just been the past two years, we’ve really opened up our doors to volunteers.

A lot of times, especially animal shelters. There’s this stigma with animal shelters that they’re not transparent. They’re doing things behind closed doors. They don’t want the community to know. They’re almost ashamed. And I find that the more transparent organizations are, the more support they get from the community. And have you found that that’s true with your organization? That’s right, and if you would have done research on the shelter, you can look at many articles in the paper over the past years, and they’re not good articles.

What was the biggest challenge when you first started? And even before Adam joined you, what were you doing to become more transparent and get the word out in the community because that’s a hard thing to do. Charlotte, What did those first few years look like for you knowing that you had that problem? It was hard being an animal lover like I am. When I first started, we had a very high euthanasia rate and one of my jobs was to pick and choose which dog didn’t make it out. And that was one of the reasons we had such a bad reputation. The animal control officers that was here when I started, they just didn’t care. They didn’t work with volunteers back then. They didn’t work with rescues back then. Just get the dogs off the street that was their job. But when I came in and when they seen that I was willing to step up to the plate and start working with more rescues, and start trying to give the rescues what they want.

It’s a hard thing to do, but I definitely agree to your point, having people who just do a job versus having passionate people like yourself and Adam and his team, of course, we make a difference. You gotta care. Yes. If you do not, you don’t need to be in this line of work. I totally agree with you. And so I love that that has been your mission and your goal since joining. And it sounds like Adam is been a fantastic addition for you guys. He has been a great help, and I know we can reach your goals. Yeah. Because we came so far in the eight and a half years I’ve been here.

So you had mentioned the high euthanasia rate when you first started Charlotte. And then where you guys at now? We was almost at a 90% euthanasia rate when I first started. Wow. And where are you guys at today? 2 maybe 3 percent. Wow, that’s incredible. And I don’t want this to sound, bad but there’s always gonna be euthanization with extremely aggressive dogs, extremely sick dogs. And we tried just to focus on that. My thing is, if that dog could live next door to my six year old daughter and I would feel comfortable then that dog’s gonna get out of here, no matter what. I mean, that’s the way I’ve tried to take this on. That might not be the best way to take it on. I want the community to be safe, first of all, and then secondly, move the animals, get them to a loving home, get into a caring owner and just like I said, save as many dogs as I possibly could.

So let me just make sure I understand. So 90% euthanasia you guys are at 3% now that means that you guys are at a 97% live release rate. Is that right? Yep. Those are great numbers. Tell me what your intake is versus what you’re adopting out. When I first started here, our intake was anywhere between 3,000 to 4,000 animals a year. I’m looking at her shelter manager from January 1st 2019 to August 26th 2019, we’ve had 919 dogs coming in and 596 cats. So it’s a total of 1,515. This is cats and dogs together. Great. We’ve had 1,047 transported out. That means they’ve been rescued. We’ve had 278 adoptions inside the camp. I think that’s awesome. I think you guys are doing fabulous work. The numbers are outstanding, and I love the transparency and the programs that you guys have.

As we get close to really wrapping this up, I want to talk about two things. One, my favorite part is memorable stories. So I’m hoping that each of you has a story that you want to share that has impacted you in your time in this industry. One dog that we had, he was a bulldog, american bulldog, Dan. And again, you know, that’s one of the breeds who have trouble moving. It’s probably unusual that you don’t hear from other shelters. A stray dog has 5 to 7 days, we’ve got to hold the animal 5 to 7 days and see if there’s no one out there looking for it. Okay. A lot of places, the end of the 5 to 7 days, the animals is destroyed. As long as we have got room, we hold on to that animal until it’s rescued or adopted. This boy, he was such an awesome dog. He didn’t cage out with the other dogs. He loved everybody. He was almost our mascot, but he was deaf. So we had trouble adopting him out because of that. And because of his breed. We had even reached out to several rescues and again, there’s a few pet rescues out there, but not many. And then we had a rescue that started working with prison programs. So they started pulling the dogs from shelters to put in prison programs and do training for service dogs. So he’s living in a prison now. Yeah, as pretty much their mascot and has been trying to be a service dog and everything.

I think that’s pretty awesome. He was here for 6 – 8 weeks. We begin here in the mornings and just let him out. He wouldn’t go nowhere. He would follow the guys around while they fed the other dogs. I mean, he was awesome. He just wanted to be around people. Yes ma’am. Yeah, I think that’s pretty special that you guys don’t give up on dogs after that mandatory 5 to 7 days hold, you know that you’re constantly networking and talking to people, and eventually you found the right spot for him. And how cool is that? We could not do what we’re doing unless we didn’t have the government behind us. They’re behind us in getting these animals to a forever home. Well, they know they look at it on the political view. If the community is happy with our shelter, they’re gonna be happy with them. And we got some in there that really, really cares for our animals that’s here in the animal shelter, and they want to see it go forward also. I definitely agree in that that is something really special with you guys, is that you have those relationships and that support. That’s gonna be my take away from this. And I hope that others listening really understand that once they get that support from the right people, it changes everything. You can grow so much. I completely agree.

So we’re actually getting short on time here, but I want to talk about future events for you guys. What do you have coming up that you want people to know about? We start this one program which we choose the training. We did play groups now, and this helps our dogs to communicate with other dogs, too. They come in here and they’re in a kennel. Well, that can take it’s toll on a dog. Especially if they come in scared. One gentleman was California. The other gentleman from Florida. We’ve got a group of ladies called our shelter helpers that paid for us to have a freedom fence and a freedom fence is a large area. It’s actually sectioned off into three separate lots to where we can turn our dogs out the blow off steam, instead being stuck in a kennel all day long. Sure.

So these gentlemen came and showed us instead of just letting one dog out in the play area, a group of dogs. And before we did the training, it was the first of last month before we done training. If you would have told me we had 12 dogs in one play area without fighting without—just causing a problem more or less. Sure. I was so worried about less about the animal shelter. They’re fighting dogs up there. But they came in and showed us that there’s always gonna be one greeter dog in the pack. Once we’ve configured that, which dog is the greeter dog, we put him or her out in the Freedom fence and we bring the other dogs to the fence, introduced them, let them introduce theirself and then turn them out into the face together. The program was called Dogs Play for Life.

And it was amazing, we had 12 dogs out here being dogs, running, playing. It was enjoyable to get to see them from either a scared or stressed situation for a dog. For example Roscoe, this is another case, awesome case. Roscoe came in as owner surrender. He lived on a chain most of his life. He was probably about four to five years ago. When he got here, he stayed to himself and stayed for the back of the run, he wouldn’t give up at feeding time, he wouldn’t eat until you left the cage just to himself. We have dogs like that. We go in there and greet him a little bit each time during the day. He eventually got to where you come close enough to let, you know, smell your hand and all. And then we could pet him/ But If you would pet him, he would back up. But then he would come closer. I guess he didn’t know what it was to be petted. He acted like he had wanted it, but he didn’t know for sure if it was okay, I guess. And he was like that for about three weeks. He had been here for three weeks.

Slowly he come out the shell starting to come up to the front of the cage, then walk back. And then we had this training and he was one of the dogs that we put out there. And at first it was—he didn’t know what to do. He was like a lost. Then he started playing, he started running. And ever since that day, he grew every day. He wanted to be loved on. He wanted to be petted. He wanted to be a part of a group. And it actually got him adopted out to a wonderful home. The program was put on by the ASPCA and PetCo. I think that’s very cool. And I think you’re doing the right things. You’re looking for new, innovative ways to help the animals in your care. And there’s just something really special about that to be able to have that heads up vision, that there’s always more to do to help the animals in your care.

So tell me about the pet costume event that you guys have coming up. It’s our annual pet costume. We have it at our PC Park and we make a big old day of it. Vendors come out and set up things, sell, I think there’s just 20 some dogs in it last year. We have judges that come out to judge the costumes. We’ve had numerous dogs get adopted. Yes, we bring dogs at the event for adoption. And do you guys post that information on your website? Or is that on Facebook? How do people know about that? We send flyers out. Very cool.

Well, I know that we’ve actually talked a lot today about many, many different things. Is there anything that we may have missed that we wanna bring up before we close this out? I think we’ve pretty much covered everything. You asked the right questions. Good. Well, I’ve really enjoyed my time talking with you guys and learning how you are operating there at Pulaski County. And I think it’s incredible. So thank you very much for taking the time to connect with me today. You’re so welcome, thank you.

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