Gimmie Shelter?

Louisville Metro Animal Services’ main shelter is tucked away from its entrance on multi-lane Manslick Road; an unassuming collection of structures hidden behind a curvy, almost-bucolic avenue that does little to prepare the prospective animal adopter for the deplorable conditions found within. Last week, a friend and I ventured here posing as such prospective adopters to witness, firsthand, the results of ex-LMAS Director Gilles Meloche’s Mayoral-approved brand of “change.” Our findings are about as depressing as you might expect.

At first glance, the property reminds me of the compound in “Jurassic Park” — an illusion that lasts only about thirty seconds. Our guide points out that the personnel and administration “buildings” are actually FEMA-style trailers stacked on concrete cinder blocks, built in response to an August 4th flood that has left a lasting and indelible mark on the understaffed, overcrowded facility. The former administration building —  barely 30 paces from the FEMA boxes — is closed off and defunct.

Inside the cramped front offices, blue-shirted staff and volunteers assist a handful of “customers” while our guide gets the okay from the manager to venture into the facility’s bowels. After a few moments, we leave the office and enter the cat sector, which is broken up into individual cells filled with plush toys, litter boxes and innumerable tiny pillows. One of the rooms – quarantined due to an outbreak of ringworm — featured a space heater; the only heating apparatus of its kind in the entire building, whose central heat has been offline since (you guessed it) the August 4th flood. The cells are chilly and teaming with felines, a few of whom appear to be sick — runny nose, languishing posture, etc. — but the atmosphere is won over by how adorable they are.

We move on into another cat-specific room, except this one is different: Off-limits to the public, this large concrete-walled room houses cages upon cages of sick and dying cats, packed in many instances 6 to a cage.

One of the volunteers is weeping.

“It’s just awful,” she says. “This place is so messed up…”

She tells us that they had just finished transporting about 60 cats to be euthanised in the veterinary technician’s trailer, and that it was way more crowded just a few hours ago, we might’ve been able to adopt one of them. After drying her eyes she squirts a few pumps of Purrel onto her palms and gets back to work.

And there’s a lot of work to be done. So much, in fact, that not much of anything really gets done: A white cat with a missing eye, its socket gaping, unsewn and mucosy; dying cats lay prostrate and growling in boxes of their own filth; a psychotic kitten pawing through the wire-mesh, mewing incessantly; another curled into a fetal position and shivering with obvious pain. Just in this particular area, the best these handful of volunteers can appear to do is keep things from getting too dirty and ferrying animals to be euthanised.

Our guide examines a kitten — a tabby — saying it appears to have pneumonia: A white sticker with the words “On Treatment” is affixed to its laminated data sheet, as it is to most data sheets in this room, which means medication. We bring the tabby to the volunteer’s attention, who says she’ll try to attend to it but instead goes about cleaning a cage. We sanitize our hands and move on.

Outside, the dogs are doing their thing, which mainly consists of either [1] cowering out of fear and/or sickness, or [2] barking insanely. The pens are lined in about four deep rows that force you to come back the way you came in order to proceed to the next row. A good many of the pens are filled with excrement and feature irregular couplings: One cage had two gigantic mastiff-type dogs, whereas others just house a lonesome Boxer or mutt. Most of these animals are “on treatment” as well. In one pen, a Boston Terrier had severely cut its paw — via clawing at the chicken wire, most likely — and was profusely bleeding amidst another dog and piles of their shit.

Waste canals are cogged with leaves and fetid green water, and like the rest of the facility the dog pens have no heat to ward off the frigid Autumn nights. Passing a crying couple unable to retrieve their lost dog, we re-re-sanitize and head back to the front offices.  My friend and I decide to actually become prospective adopters and rescue the pneumonia-stricken tabby after learning that no attempts have been made in the hour since we brought it to the attention of LMAS personnel. We explain to a blue-shirted staff member our intentions, that we basically want to adopt the cat and take care of its veterinary expenses, and are told to wait for the veterinary technician who’s standing across the room, idly chatting.

“We’ll have to wait for her to get done talking,” the volunteer says in a half-sigh.

Eventually we speak with her, but are shocked at her answer.

“If the animal is sick then we don’t allow you to take it home with you,” she told us. “So no.”

“Well,” my friend replied, “All I want to do is take it to a veternarian,” which pretty much provoked the white-frocked doctor to dismiss our intentions entirely, and to chide our guide for allowing us into off-limits areas. We left soon after, crestfallen and in need of a chemical bath.

In the wake of Meloche’s resignation, the seedy details of his LifeTime-network-TV-thriller sexual misconduct are dominating the news cycles, but the conditions at LMAS’s shelter — the largest of its kind in the state — remain the same. Meloche, along with fellow “change agent” and current interim director Wayne Zelinsky, have been building this house over the last three years. If you want proof for yourself, drive out to 3705 Manslick Road and bring a box of Kleenxes. They’ll come in handy in more ways than one.


  1. Barbara Haines
    Posted October 30, 2009 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like the place has been utterly “modernized” to me! Lots of “professionals” there, too.

    At least you found one thing Meloche has told the truth about: Nobody wants to come to the Manslick Road shelter to adopt a pet. Small wonder…

    I’m sorry you had to endure that, and even sorrier that the animals do, too.

  2. rubber duck
    Posted October 30, 2009 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    All though your intentions were good, you must understand that it would be a liability to the shelter if we adopted out that sick kitten. So many adopters are implusive and don’t realize the complexity of their responsibility when adopting sicks animals.we need adopters to commit for life, no matter what! But so many renig and return the animal. I have suggested a release form for that, but it only went so far. It would decrease population and stress for everyone. Oh, I loved the oct 28th week article. Finally the city can see and feel our daily pain. Thank you.

  3. Justice
    Posted November 2, 2009 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I am so glad a reporter actually went to see what is happening. What kind of meds are they giving the animals? Who is administering them and where is the medication log that shows when and if they are being medicated? These are all required by MAS of any breeder or rescue. Did you go in the Quarentine building??? I am sure you were not allowed. Did you happen to ask to see the E.T. list for that day and see why they are being euthanized? Why is it is against the law to bury your pet or for the sick individual throw thier pet in the trash but We as tax payers pay for this service???? I hope you can keep looking for answers. There is alot to know!

  4. but about the animals
    Posted November 2, 2009 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for going to the shelter and seeing the animals firsthand. All shelters have problems with ringworm and upper respiratory infections (colds) in cats and kittens, even no-kill or limited entry shelters. The kittens who were exposed to ringworm determined to be present in a small spot on one kitten, are all being treated for ringworm to ensure there is not an outbreak and that the kittens are completely free of ringworm pre-adoption. The are not on view or up for adoption today but they are safe. Do not overlook these adorable adoptable animals of all breeds and pedigrees. The problems with overcrowing are community problems brought on by a culture of individual community members who do not take responsibility for getting their own cats/dogs/rabbits spayed or neutered but let them off property to breed and a culture in our community at large that has not shown the will to do something about this. Community leaders can take note! It will take a collective community will to fix this problem, not improved shelter management alone. Community members go in the cat back rooms to look for lost animals all the time so it is not unusual for this reporter to have been back there. In addition that is where most adoptable kittens are since the kittens with ringworm are not up for adoption again for a few weeks. Yes they keep treatment records but some folks are more sloppy than others.

  5. kimberly carrier
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    This is an outrage and to think these are the people who we put into getting animals out of the streets and out of homes and some homes are quite good. What we need to do is get rid of all the animal control people and the mayor himself and get somebody in who can do the job right. These animals depend on us but take better care of themselves if they were left on the street to fend for themselves. I am willing to take on metro animal services and get them up to a better standard of caring for the animals. If it were anybody else they would drop them with neglect charges what about them.

  6. April F
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Not only are those animals taken off the streets but they are dumped at the foot of LMAS. They get calls from owners surrendering their animals because of lack of interest, love and care. I am sure LMAS is doing what they can with the limited amount of resources and money.

    I agree that it would take our community to fix this problem, educate people on the importance or spay and neutering pets. It takes much more than improved shelter management alone. I urge you to volunteer for a week and see the ins and outs for yourself. It will really open your eyes to the ignorance of our community when it comes to managing animals and their quality of life.

  7. Patricia Thorpe
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    The more I have learned about LMAS the more upset I have become. I have even donated money to them thinking it was helping the animals but from what I have learned and read, this certainly is not the case. This situation with these poor animals is an atrocity and there is more than just a paper trail here if people would just take the time to learn about this for themselves. Our family is currently in a court battle with them as I speak. You can go onto facebook and click on causes to learn the story about Bring Misty Home. It has gotten so out of control that there is not enough space here to even begin to do this story justice. What started out as such a glorious event has turned into one of the worst nightmares I have ever found myself in, and I have seen a lot–I am a retired police officer. Some people will say, well it is just a dog–no way! When you start digging as I have done over the last several months, it becomes way way bigger than just our dog. We are hoping by having people join our cause, no other family will ever have to go through what we have. Not just that–I hope someday that the animals there will finally be treated with the humaneness that they solely deserve, each and every one of them. God please help these animals.

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] « Gimmie Shelter? Lunchbox: Boo » [...]

  2. By Jackie Gulbe speaks… oh, boy. – FatLip on July 22, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    [...] long, Jackie. It was nice knowing [...]