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Living like a dog to prove a point

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By John Shindlebower

A TV news report about conditions in several area animal shelters has cast a misleading shadow on Spencer County’s facility said local officials. To combat that negative image, a volunteer is going to live in the shelter this weekend to prove that conditions are safe and healthy.

Melvin Gore, the Animal Control Director said WAVE 3 TV’s story that aired last week lumped Spencer County’s small shelter in with several others that had deplorable conditions and made it appear that Spencer County’s shelter was negligent. He said Spencer County has definite needs because of its size and funding, but took exception with questions about the quality of care.

It was an issue with the many volunteers who work at the shelter to take care of the dogs and keep the facility clean as well. One such volunteer, Paula Sparrow, wants to prove her point about the day-to-day operation of the shelter by spending 48 hours in the shelter.

Beginning Friday night, she will make the shelter her home. She plans to eat, sleep and live in a cage, or what they call a ‘run’ at the shelter, for 48 hours. She will eat when the dogs eat and she’ll only leave the run when volunteers arrive to let dogs out for their walks.

Sparrow said it’s her way to demonstrate that the local shelter is clean, safe and humane.

“I’m going to live like a shelter dog for 48 hours to show people that I believe in this shelter enough that I’ll live here with the dogs,” she said.

Both Gore and Sparrow said they’re not sure if the intention of the TV report was to misrepresent what was going on in Spencer County, but said it left the impression that the local shelter was dirty and the animals not treated properly.

Last year, a study by the University of Kentucky was released on animal shelters across Kentucky, and Spencer County was listed as subpar. In fact, it was listed as one of the worst. However, the study wasn’t singling out Spencer County for it’s treatment of the animals, but for the actual facilities.

Gore said he wanted to make sure the community knows that the staff and volunteers are doing the best they can under the current conditions.

“We’re in it (study) for the size of the shelter, not because of animal care,” he said.

Both Gore and Sparrow said it’s been frustrating because they’ve worked so long to bring awareness of the shelter to the community, only to have a TV report make it look like the shelter conditions are deplorable.

“We don’t want people to think our dogs are standing in feces and water,” said Gore, noting that the TV report immediately cut from interviewing him to showing another shelter in another community that showed dogs in very poor living conditions.

Sparrow, who called her upcoming weekend as an “old-fashioned sit-in”, said she wants to draw attention to the shelter, and its needs, but also to the work and dedication of the staff and volunteers.

“Our shelter is clean. The dogs are loved and we care for those dogs like they are our own,” said Sparrow.

She said the Animal Control staff does great work with what they have, and she said the group of volunteers they have “pour their heart and soul into taking care of the animals.”

“We spent a year and a half raising awareness. We don’t want it to be ruined by a newscast,” said Sparrow.

So on Friday night, Sparrow will be in the doghouse, not because of anything she’s done, but because of something she believes in. She’s hoping the community will continue to support the animal shelter in it’s recent efforts to raise funds for a new, larger facility.

“The only thing I’ve asked the volunteers to do is not to take me out on a prong collar,” she joked, referring to a special training collar used on some dogs.

In recent months, the Spencer County Fiscal Court has addressed the shelter’s needs, and earlier this year approved a land survey on county property near the fairgrounds to determine a possible location for a new shelter.