To determine the future of Kenton County Animal Services, you must first look into the past. The last decade has resulted in a series of changes for the organization that are now providing the foundation for future progress.
Those changes began in 2016, when the Kenton County Fiscal Court enacted legislation establishing a Community Cat Program, with the goal of becoming a recognized "no-kill" shelter.
In doing so, Kenton County adopted the industry best practice of trap, neuter and return (TNR). This practice, opposed to the previous program of catch and euthanize, offers a humane way of controlling community cat populations by sterilizing those animals so they cannot breed. It has led to Kenton County's overall live release rate surging from 38% to more than 90%.
“This ordinance really paved the way for where we are now and where we’re still headed,” Kelsey Maccombs, director of Kenton County Animal Services, said.
By enacting this legislation, Kenton County Animal Services was able to achieve no-kill status for the first time in 2018. It has maintained that distinction for the past five years.
Physical improvements boost quality of life
Coinciding with the launch of its Community Cat Program, Kenton County Animal Services began making steady investments into its facility to better accommodate the animals served.
Those improvements included the creation of a cat isolation room to physically separate sick cats and limit the spread of disease and the addition of new kennels for both dogs and cats. Kenton County Animal Services also converted the shelter’s euthanasia room into a full surgery suite to allow for more onsite services.
“This one room really was a game-changer for our operations,” Maccombs said, noting how it also allowed for a wider array of treatment options and faster care.
Kenton County Animal Services also initiated a series of improvements to its outdoor areas for dogs, such as installing new fencing to allow for both individual and group outdoor time.
Having that additional outdoor space helped in the introduction of a canine behavior coordinator, who uses that space to conduct assessments of each dog to determine its needs when transitioning to a permanent home.
Reinvigorated animal control focuses on results
The investments in personnel also have extended to the other side of Kenton County Animal Services’ operations – animal control.
In 2022, Kenton County’s animal control team underwent a massive change, with Maccombs tasked with filling all five positions.
It was that newly installed team which executed a months-long investigation into equine cruelty. That work resulted in Kenton County Animal Services rescuing nine horses, and successfully getting a guilty plea for nine misdemeanor counts of inhumane treatment to animals.
Maccombs said this accomplishment would have been a major win for even the most experienced of teams, but it was even more impressive given the newness of Kenton County’s officers.
To support the team, Maccombs has championed the creation of a training baseline for control officers. In 2022, all five members attended National Animal Control Association trainings to help them develop their skills.
But beyond conducting investigations, Kenton County’s animal control officers are effective at reunifying pets with their owners. Maccombs says this is crucial at a time when Animal Services continues to experience sky-high intake volumes with limited space.
What’s next for Kenton County Animal Services?
The county’s Community Cat Program continues to this day, though in late-2022 its nonprofit partners’ capacity to support the initiative diminished. As a result, the Kenton County Fiscal Court made a substantial commitment in the 2023 budget to aid the initiative.
This investment will support both pharmaceutical needs and the establishment of several new positions, including the county’s first-ever on-staff veterinarian. It stands to have a transformational impact on both Kenton County residents and animals served.
“We know we’re facing a national shortage of trained veterinarians,” Maccombs said. “But the Fiscal Court’s support is setting my team up to be the leader in our region.”
Other next steps:
- Creation of puppy isolation room. Similar to its existing cat isolation room, Kenton County Animal Services has received funding to build a puppy isolation room. Puppies, while the most vulnerable, are the most likely to be harboring a disease that could impact the entire shelter. In creating an isolation room, Maccombs’ team will be able to contain and treat any diseases quickly.
- Improved air handlers. The surgery suite requires heavy equipment that can get very hot. For this reason, Kenton County Animal Services has secured the funds to address cooling issues within its surgery suite.