Thursday, June 08, 2000

Stray dogs rescued from firing squads

By Karen Samples
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dog groomer Jean Allen has taken in five strays to keep them from being euthanized by gunshot.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        CAMPBELLSBURG, KY. — Stray dogs still get euthanized by gunshot in Henry County. Every two weeks, Ted Chisolm restrains them with a choke collar, puts his pistol against their heads and fires.

        Many of the dogs are starving, injured or eaten up with mange when they arrive at the pound, Mr. Chisolm says. He copes with his job by telling himself they're better off dead.

        Nevertheless, the carnage has become intolerable to some animal lovers. Last year in Gallatin County, they formed a humane society to lobby for a new facility.

        And for years, some have operated a sort of underground railroad to save dogs from execution.

        The strays come from Henry, Gallatin and Trimble counties. Gallatin's dog warden contacts the network when he comes across a special stray.

        Jean Allen, a dog groomer, recently took in a Labrador mix, had him neutered and found him a home. She has six other dogs, five of which were strays.

  • To adopt dogs at the Henry County shelter: 502-845-5707.
  • To contact the Gallatin County Humane Society: 606-643-5785.
  • For information on Kentucky's new grant program for animal shelters, call Beckey Reiter at 606-586-5285.
        Ms. Allen said she understands the idea behind the gunfire: There are worse ways for an animal to go, and at least a bullet is quick.

        But Henry County's shelter is not open to the public, so people can't know exactly what is happening there. Ms. Allen wonders whether some dogs jump around, requiring more than one shot.

        “I'm so emotional when it comes to animals, and shooting them just hurts my heart,” she says.

        The method is legal, however, in Kentucky and Ohio.

        In rural Ohio, it's possible a few counties are still using bullets, says Andy Mahlman of the Hamilton County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but most urban and suburban animal shelters use lethal drugs.

        Shooting is more common in rural Kentucky, where judge-executives say they can't afford the drugs used in cities like Cincinnati.

        A bullet costs about 2 cents. By contrast, one 40-pound dog can be killed by injection for 80 cents, says Beckey Reiter, executive director of Boone County Animal Care and Control.

        This spring, for the first time, the Kentucky General Assembly set aside $1 million for animal control. Some may be used to help counties buy the drugs. Another chunk will go toward shelter construction in counties that agree to certain standards, including euthanasia by injection.

        But in Henry County, Mr. Chisolm isn't convinced drugs are better. Shooting a dog can't be worse than several people wrestling it down for an injection, he said.

        Mr. Chisolm is an oil salesman and farmer who gets $13,000 a year to visit the shelter once a day. He feeds and waters the dogs and occasionally kills them. It's difficult, he says, and he wouldn't do it for less.

        The pound is located in the midst of a weed-filled field. There are two locked gates and no signs.

        Wednesday, Henry Judge-Executive Tommy Bryant unlocked the gates for an Enquirer reporter and Dede Koenig of the Gallatin County Humane Society.

        Six big dogs shared one pen, a bucket of water that was nearly full, but they appeared to have no food. Four smaller dogs in another cage had a small amount of water and a nearly empty food bowl.

        A tiny, short-haired dog with a face like Spuds Mackenzie kept wriggling out of her cage and running straight for the visitors, tail wagging.

        Mr. Bryant was candid. It's not the nicest shelter, and he welcomes any help he can get, he says. People who want to adopt dogs or help clean the place can call his office, he said.

        Several years ago, a television station publicized the shooting of dogs at the pound. In the wake of the uproar, the Kentucky Humane Society started transporting all the Henry County dogs to Louisville, where they were placed for adoption or euthanized by injection.

        But that effort ended after eight months, when the organization ran out of space and volunteers to make the drive.

        In the end, the burden of rescuing animals in rural Kentucky almost always falls on a few private citizens with soft hearts and iron wills. Ms. Koenig and other members of the Gallatin County Humane Society already have operated their underground railroad for years.

        After the tour, Ms. Koenig came away with even more resolve to make a difference through organization. The shooting of dogs must stop, she said, and the Gallatin Humane Society must work with county officials to find an alternative.

        As she left, the yelping of the Spuds MacKenzie look-alike followed her to her car.

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