My animal evolution (& Ky’s lack thereof)

Let me preface this work by saying that I am not vegan. I grew up on a farm. I do not fish or hunt, but I’m not diametrically opposed to those who do, if they do so legally. Those statements are as likely to piss off some people as they are to reassure others, but they are the truth. That said, years of volunteering with the local humane society as well as other organizations have shown me that we here in Ky have a lot of work to do in the realm of animal welfare.

My sisters and I grew up on a small family farm in Ky surrounded by animals of all varieties. Of course we had dogs and cats. We also had horses, cattle, chickens and, for awhile during an ill-advised period in my dad’s farming operation, pigs.

Levi the german shepherd is the first dog I can remember. When I was 4 or 5, a car ran over him while he was following Dad’s tractor to the field. He survived, but he was paralyzed in his back legs. He managed to get around amazingly well and lived seemingly contently for another couple years though. Husky and Brownie were black and blond labs we had through most of our childhood. They were outside dogs and were typical Labs. We wallowed them and rode them. The most violent behavior ever displayed by either was to knock my baby sister Katy down with their wagging tails when she was a baby.

A parade of cats lived in our barn over the years. A beautiful three-legged Persian female stayed around the longest, but there were calicos and tabbies too. I don’t remember any of them being fixed or vetted for the most part. Spaying and neutering was not as prevalent then, at least around here. Several litters of kittens were born in that barn’s hay loft.

After Levi, we didn’t have any inside pets except goldfish and parakeets for years. Mom worked full-time as a social worker. I guess between raising three kids and working, cleaning up after an extra mammal was her limit. When Katy was a tween, she begged and begged for a dog. The result was Cocoa, a cute but not overly intelligent miniature poodle. Katy babied and slept with him for awhile but eventually, as kids sometimes do, grew tired of him. He and Mom continued their dysfunctional relationship well into my 20s until his merciful death.

I was between 6 and 8 when I got Toby, a Shetland pony mix. He was already old when I got him. Dad bought him off someone in another county. He was foundered, but he was said to be gentle with kids. I had been taking riding lessons for a year or so, and Mom and Dad thought he would be a good first horse. I spent hours brushing him, cleaning his hooves and riding him around our yard. We even entered him in the county fair leadline event one year. We stood out like sore thumbs, me leading him and my sister Mandy on his back. He was short and dumpy compared to the quarter and walking horses in the ring, but I thought he was the most beautiful creature there. One time my friend Stacey and I were riding him barrel-style around the trees in the yard. The saddle started slipping until she fell sideways onto the ground. Toby stopped in his tracks to keep from trampling her. I came home from a slumber party on a winter Saturday morning when I was 15 to find Dad throwing up outside the house. Toby had been having more and more trouble getting around and was blind in one eye. Dad had just gotten home from taking him to the back field, shooting and burying him.

We showed cattle in 4-H in high school. My first show calf was Eppie, a black Chianina-Angus cross heifer. Eppie was not a big cow, as most Chis are. She was generally good-natured, but she could have an attitude, as evidenced by her headbutting Mom off her feet into a bush. She stayed with the herd for years after her show career ended.

Note: A modern misdemeanor cruelty to animals law went into effect in Ky in 1974. Prior to that, most animal laws centered on the issuance of dog rabies and licensing tags and dogs running at large.

Leo was my first big girl dog. I got him from a backyard breeder (the one and only time) when I was young and dumber in my early 20s. I had just recently seen a chow and thought it was the cutest thing ever. I knew nothing about their temperament, there was no google and I had not bothered to do any research at the library before getting him. He was to be a Christmas/birthday gift for my boyfriend at the time. Leo failed puppy kindergarten by refusing to obey even the most basic commands. He had a mind of his own. He hated rain but loved snow. He refused to enter dog houses or baby pools or my first apartment. He barked at leaves and strangers, especially men. Despite being fixed, he humped my leg before going through doorways. However, he loved other dogs and took to every stray I brought home.

Broadway got his name because Bob, my ex, and I found him running across Broadway in downtown Lexington dragging a chain. We ended up taking him home, where he was welcomed by Leo and spent the rest of his life. He was one of the smartest dogs I have known. Once he escaped his tie-out while I was at work and walked over to my grandmother’s house for a visit. He developed epilepsy later and life and had to take daily medication, but it did not slow him down much.

Shortly after getting Leo, a neighbor Cynthia spoke as we were on a daily walk. I found out she was involved with PAWS, a humane society in the process of getting a local animal shelter built. The shelter at that time was a pound, where dogs went into an outside pen together with little food and a lot of disease. Dogs rarely left the pound alive. I had never been able to bring myself to actually go there. I went to a PAWS meeting in the bank basement and heard about what the group was doing, including building plans, fundraising, and grant writing. The new shelter opened in October 1997. It had several dog runs, a cat room, a puppy room, a surgery room, a garage and reception area. An outside play area would come later. I volunteered for a few years with PAWS and eventually became a board member. We did Petsmart adoption days, helped clean cages and walk dogs, did bingo, golf tournament and silent auction fundraisers. I left the board in 2003 when I adopted my son. Today the PAWS animal shelter is ranked among the top in the state.

Note: Animal shelter standards did not exist under Ky law until 2007. KRS 258.119 lay out some simple standards. However, there is no agency designated to provide oversight of these standards.

Around the fall of 2011 my son Bersain decided we had been without a dog for long enough. We looked at PAWS, and one of the workers directed us to a cute little Jack Russell mix Warner, who was jumping up and down at the gate of his run. I needed an active dog for my active little boy, she said. I should have known they would be double trouble.

Then in December 2015, after the Homeward Bound rescue hoarding case yielded over 170 dogs in need, we fostered Splash, who could have been Warner’s brother. We figured our four-legged family was complete at that point.

Last summer problems came to light at the Albany Ky animal shelter. Volunteers went public with evidence of animals not being fed or watered, dead cats being found and animals being unnecessarily and improperly euthanized. The shelter was also ranked third last in the state by a vet study. I saw a social media post for a little brindle pit about to be put down there, and something in me had to save her. I drove the five-hour round trip to pick her up one night after work. She was to go on to a foster and rescue. However, my husband fell in love with her. So, Mila is our third (and last?) dog.

Note: A felony animal cruelty law known as Romeo’s Law was finally enacted in Ky in 2008. The only major pro-animal law to pass in the state since was the felony dogfighting possession bill last year. There is still no shelter reform, bestiality law, or felony cockfighting law in the state.


About mcbarlow5

37-year-old working mom in KY
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4 Responses to My animal evolution (& Ky’s lack thereof)

  1. Candy says:

    Thank You so much for your blog! You are right we must band together with HSUS & ASPA. Its a shame the only animal org in KY who is making a strong effort to change KY laws is Arrow Fund. I think we have an opportunity to make a strong collaborative effort. I especially would like to see the Kentucky & Lexington KY Humane Society’s very high paid “Executive Directors” really earn their keep by making MORE OF AN AGGRESSIVE EFFORT to ban all of their supporters together to remain front & center with the legislators.

    To just be in the business of “offering happy puppies & kitties &
    .fun..” and not getting their hands dirty is truly a disadvantage to the animals & our state.

    Plenty of opportunities. One thing these criminal anti-animal orgs have in common is a relentless & passionate focus and execution. This is stronger than money!

    • mcbarlow5 says:

      Thanks for your comments. I too wish the larger humane societies in Ky would take more of a leadership role. I wonder if the reason they don’t is that they are afraid they will lose donors if they become too political.

  2. Candy says:

    I agree Mcbarlow 🙂 Yet KY Humane & Lexington Humane must step up to the plate. I think if their donors found out their annual salaries this would create more waves vs. standing up against & fighting animal cruelty. If we continue to put our egos and political correctness before fighting, preventing & ending animal cruelty..the animals will continue to lose and the rescue groups will continue to spin their wheels to while the root cause issues are not aggressively faced and legislated.

    Its amazing KY Humane has the audacity to put up a 1M golden gated “rehab center” as it continues to turn away so many animals a its doorstep & turn away concerned citizens who call in to report animal cruelty/neglect. Their response is “we dont have legal jurisdiction.” Come on…REALLY?? So you need to be “sworn in & uniformed” to fight cruelty & change laws? Most progressive states larger Humane Society’s have cruelty divisions and have ongoing public awareness & ad campaigns that address animal cruelty. Also..their adoption process is as easy as it is to just go walk into a 7-11 & buy a newspaper. Very sad.

    We need as a society to get out of our fantasy mindedness and face reality. This state will not on its own accord, drum up or strengthen its cruelty laws. We need ALL of the rescue groups to stand up & get a central focus, message & plan of action. People will get on board and support it. LAWS WILL CHANGE! Sure these groups are amazing at rescue & adoption and I dont want to completely minimize this yet for example…why spend 1M on a golden gated “rehab” center and not expand a spay & neuter facility?? Have you seen the place?? Its just another animal “warehouse” to drum up more PR to pump up their donations. They can feature the next sad case on WHAS in one breath & with the other turn away from stopping & preventing cruelty and turning away needy animals. With that $$$ Why not get into the schools & teach animal care/compassion classes & partner w LMAS to fight cruelty & strengthen laws? Also..why do we only have one tiny low cost Spay & Neuter Clinic in Louisville with such limited hours & availability? It can take months to get an animal in!

    This is such a great state & I would like the”compassionate city” propaganda to extend to non-human animals. Louisville will certainly become more attractive & move ahead if it can lead this effort & make it happen if we SHOUT OUT & STAND UP! Come on…look what the Fairness Campaign has accomplished here for LGBTQ community! A bump bump to Chris Hartman by the way. We need someone like him to lead the effort♡♡

  3. KathrinS says:

    They’re all so beautiful! It’s wonderful when kids get to grow up with pets and animals around them. We always had cats, and when I was 14 we got our own chickens. It was a wonderful experience for me. If/when I get a pet when I have a place of my own, I’ll definitely get a rescue.

    Kathrin —

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