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2-year anniversary of puppy mill shows improvement in animal welfare

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By Brad Bowman

Two years after the raid on a puppy mill that saved 240 animals in Henry County, Animal Control Officer Dan Flinkfelt’s memory of the incident and his vision for the county remain clear.

With Vicks VapoRub under his nose, a mask on his face and breath mints in his mouth, Flinkfelt still remembers the smell outside the trailer filled with numerous animal cages stacked on top of each other.

“I received a phone call from Judge-Executive John Logan Brent saying we had a situation in the morning,” Flinkfelt said. “I called my team and let them know something big was going. I Googled the property to get all the outbuildings and made sure everything was in order for the search warrant. Before we went into that trailer, you smell it from the outside.  We knew it was a big situation.”

Flinkfelt received  assistance from the Shelby and Oldham animal control, the Kentucky Police, the Henry County Sheriff’s Office and had a vet on standby.

During the raid, one dog was found dead in a cage with four other dogs, law enforcement found an unknown amount of guinea pig remains in a dog food bag, three of the 20 cats on the property died. Flinkfelt , with support from local organizations, put most of the animals in foster care.

The raid showed an improved position for the county against animal cruelty and trumps the state’s much laxer laws or ordinances.

The Animal Defense Legal Defense Fund ranked Kentucky in 2012 as the worst state for animal control laws at 50 while Illinois ranked at the top. One of the lacking state regulations according to the ALDF, having possession of animals following a conviction or future ownership, has been addressed in Henry County and Flinkfelt said support in local government made that happen.

“We’ve rewritten county ordinances with penalty fees with animal cruelty. The Don Buckler case involving animal cruelty to horses where he still had possession of horses he said were his sons has changed,” Flinkfelt said. “The county attorney helped me proofread these ordinances and now it is a violation. You can’t  sell puppies at a flea market after a conviction. It’s a violation. We talked to State Representative Rick Rand about what needs to be changed (at the state level) and we tried to get a bill passed, but there was resistance about who would enforce it and another representative didn’t want to upset hunters and farmers. If they are legal they shouldn’t have had a problem with the bill.”

With the support of Henry County Fiscal Court, countyordinances have been changed. Flinkfelt helped Eminence rewrite their animal ordinance. Now, the public perception of Henry County’s animal control and animal welfare has changed, according to Flinkfelt. Other counties have asked Flinkfelt for assistance with their cases. With continued education and training offered through the National Animal Control Association, other organizations are taking notice.

“The Terri Smith puppy mill raid has been eye opening and we are better prepared for situations like that,” Flinkfelt said. “It’s opened other organizations to what we do in our county and they want us to help them. I’ve gone on an investigation in Ohio County where wolves ate a woman. The United States Humane Society has asked us to help inspect shelters. I’ve been called to Owen County for another hoarding situation. Spencer County has called us to look at things. I’m proud of my team and the support of fiscal court and the judge-executive. We’ve gone from where we were to knowing where we want to be.”

The Henry and Trimble County Shelter works with rescue programs like Jellystone Bark Rescue Rangers out of Chicago that do adoptions and animal transports at no cost to the counties’ taxpayers. In the past two years, the shelter has adopted out about 1,000 animals, according to Flinkfelt.

“We have people coming out to the shelter to volunteer where people didn’t want to before,” Flinkfelt said. “I invite anyone to come out to the shelter, see how clean it is, walk a dog, bring donations or talk with the staff to see what we are doing.”

Flinkfelt sees progress where none existed before and that is his vision of animal welfare.

“When you see things that need to be changed, your choices are to remain the same and make no progress or do it and make progress. It’s better for the citizens and animals. You have to have progress to grow,” Flinkfelt said. “We’ve grown where people trust us and we are doing things the right way.”

The Henry and Trimble County Animal Shelter will host a spay and neuter clinic Feb. 4. For more information visit them on Facebook or call (502) 845-8050.