RUSSELLVILLE — The most noticeable change at the Logan County Humane Society animal shelter is audible. Rather than the cacophony of more than 120 barking dogs tied up and kenneled in every available place, the area is quiet. Dogs look eagerly at visitors but remain calm.
In just more than a week, workers at the shelter have reduced the dog population by 89 – more than half. The shelter appears clean and ordered. Dogs have toys in their cages and enjoy treats and exercise throughout the day.
The improvements are “mind-boggling,” said Logan County Fiscal Court Magistrate Jo Orange, who sits on the humane society’s board of directors.
“I did not think it would be possible,” she said Thursday.
Surface improvements have happened fast, according to Lorri Hare, director of the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society, who is overseeing improvements at the Logan County shelter.
Members of her staff are at the shelter daily, along with two Logan County shelter staff, several volunteers and jail workers. Tracy Moser from RePets in Bowling Green also is leading the effort. The Fix Foundation in Simpson County has helped by taking cats for its adoption program.
Long-term, Hare wants to address deeper problems by smoothing daily operations, setting a financial plan, abiding by safety measures and establishing volunteer and donor programs.
Besides bringing the population under control, vetting animals and cleaning the facility, workers have spent the past 10 days inputting animal records and updating social media sites, such as PetFinder, to improve the animals’ chances of adoption.
In the next three to four weeks, Hare plans to hire staff, including a new director. In May, the shelter specialist who designed the facility in Bowling Green will visit Logan County to help determine if the building is fixable.
The facility has drainage issues, rodent infestation and soil contamination, Hare said.
She said Bowling Green will remain involved until she’s sure the shelter can maintain itself. She looks forward to that day – her staff is spread thin across Logan and Warren counties.
“We don’t want to be there forever, but we want to know that we made ... some positive changes that everybody will be happy with,” she said. “I think if those dogs could talk, they would tell us thank you.”
The board of directors empowered Hare and Moser to fix the shelter after facing scrutiny for overcrowding and poor conditions.
A Daily News report detailed persistent problems, despite recommendations and offers of help by animal welfare workers.
On April 14, shelter director Kathy Maddox resigned and the board replaced two members who had blocked Moser’s efforts.
Since then, the shelter has decreased the number of dogs from 137 to 48.
Two dogs were placed in foster homes, 13 were adopted and 53 were taken by rescue organizations and nearby shelters.
Twenty-one dogs were euthanized at the shelter or by a local veterinarian. Those put down were deemed “unadoptable,” meaning they were either too sick or too aggressive to be adopted.
One such dog was taken to a veterinarian last week, where the vet found large tumors in her stomach.
Two separate experts tested animals to determine their behavior around people and other animals. One professional performed the SAFER assessment – the most-used test in animal shelters, Hare said. A second animal behavior professional visited the shelter April 17.
Aggressive dogs that failed both tests were euthanized.
“We had to make some very difficult decisions,” Hare said. “I’ve cried so much in the last week.”
People like Linda Lockhart, a Logan County resident, were spurred to volunteer. Lockhart joined the board of directors last week. She said she has spent time at the shelter nine out of the past 10 days.
“I just had to come out,” she said. “I want to help get things turned around.”