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In response to Washington County Sheriff Tommy Bartley’s concern about large animal neglect, action was taken by the Washington County Fiscal Court to come up with a plan to handle such situations.
Marion County Animal Control Officer Jeff Woolridge came to speak to the fiscal court on Monday during the regular scheduled meeting.
By the end of the meeting, the court was ready to implement a plan they were convinced was necessary.
Woolridge spoke to the members of the court for nearly 40 minutes about animal neglect. He presented a case study from another county in Kentucky. He was informed about the study at a recent training he attended.
In Marion County, Woolridge has found horse owners that are willing to help with rescued horses. He thinks the same can be done in Washington County.
“Your county is full of horse people,” he said. “You’ve got some of the best saddle bred horses in the world here. You all have great horse people.”
He said he approached similar people in Marion County to see if they would be willing to house rescued horses for free.
“We got stuck a couple of years ago paying $3,000 for boarding horses,” he said. “We don’t want to do that.”
Woolridge has an anonymous list of people willing to house horses if a situation arises.
“We provide the feed. We provide the hay,” he said. “Horses have to have good hay.”
Woolridge said he has gone around to local farmers asking if they could spare five or 10 bales of hay. So far, it has worked.
“So we’ve probably got a surplus of 50 bales of hay, if we need it,” he said.
He said feed stores help with the program, as well.
A few years ago, in Marion County, they were also able to let the horse owner keep the animals on the original property while the animal shelter and the sheriff’s office monitored and cared for the horse.
“They stayed on that property,” he said. “It was court ordered. He couldn’t move the horses, he couldn’t sell the horses.”
Woolridge said there is excellent training available for people to learn to evaluate the condition of a horse.
“We do get several calls at our shelter based on (Washington County) animals,” he said. “This is not my jurisdiction, it’s not (other employees’) jurisdiction. We advise them to call you. We advise them to call the sheriff’s department.”
Woolridge said there was enough interest in the community to create a network of people to house neglected horses, and avoid paying large boarding bills, if the right approach was taken.
Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles said training was coming up at Asbury University on March 16-18.
Settles also asked Woolridge if this was a service that could be contracted with the Marion County animal shelter, similar to the existing contract with small animals. Woolridge said according to the Kentucky Revised Statutes, a contract is a possibility between the counties.
Magistrate Hal B. Goode asked Woolridge if the upcoming training will allow a person to establish if a horse or cow is malnourished, or if a vet is required.
“It helps to have a vet,” Woolridge said. “In our incident we had at Marion County a couple of years ago, our veterinarian was sued just because he gave his professional opinion.”
Magistrate Benjamin Settles asked Woolridge what happened to horses that were nursed back to health after being recovered.
“You would sell them,” he said. “You’d be surprised, if you promote it correctly, the number of people that want a rescued horse.”
“I think we need to move, as far as this court is concerned, to develop a plan,” Judge Settles said. “We currently don’t have anything in place.”
The judge said whether the plan was for Washington County to try to contract with Marion County or develop their own large animal program, something needed to be put in place.
“It’s an issue we can’t sweep under the table any longer,” Settles said. “That’s not going to take care of any immediate problems, but we have to start planning sometime.”
Goode said the county could incorporate training with their own animal control officer and also merge with Woolridge’s current plan.
“One of the problems is training is only available to law enforcement officers,” Settles said. “A sworn-in animal control officer is a law enforcement officer. A private citizen can not go to this training. That kind of precludes us from having volunteers to do this because this person has to be an extension of county government.”
The court made a motion to send Pat Spalding, the county’s animal control officer, and someone from the sheriff’s department to training in March.
Settles also said the county would start compiling a master list of people that were willing to help with rescued horses.