Lax Animal Shelter Laws Promotes Animal Hoarding

Lax Animal Shelter Laws Promotes Animal Hoarding 

By: Kelsey Noel

Today animal shelters and rescues play an important role in helping disadvantaged animals get a second chance with a forever family. There are shelters like the Humane Society, which are widely known and respected in the community. However, a different and more recent group of animal rescues has become pervasive in our communities. Well-intentioned people have started using animal rescues as a way to feed their destructive animal hoarding behavior.

Currently, the Kentucky statutes that determine animal shelter eligibility are 201 KAR 16:080 and 258.119. Both of these statutes lay out the stricter requirements in operating a certified animal shelter that receives funding from state taxes that are county specific.[1] These shelters are required to keep detailed information about the animals they are housing, get the Board of Veterinary Examiners certificate, DEA certification for euthanasia drugs, board inspection, an onsite manager, purchases made by the organization, and compliance with all disposal requirements.[2] 

However, in order to operate an animal rescue all that is needed is for the individual to fill out an incorporation form available on the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website located at Animal rescues that don’t receive funding by the state will incorporate as a non-profit organization and aren’t subjected to the same rigorous standards that county groups have to follow. For example, an “animal sanctuary” in Kentucky was charged with 179 counts of animal cruelty for failing to vaccinate their animals.[3] This shelter in particular housed 139 dogs and 40 cats and was incorporated as a non-profit.[4] Also, a recent 2016 study into Kentucky animal shelters across the state, which included some “regional facilities”, indicated that “57 percent violated three or more provisions of Kentucky’s animal shelter laws.”[5]

Individuals who operate these types of rescue shelters are dangerous to animals. Well-intentioned people “who consider themselves rescues or sanctuaries” usually “make up ‘virtually all’ of animal hoarding cases involving more than 50 animals.”[6] Even when rescues start out as legitimate businesses many of those operators “find themselves both unable to recognize their limitations and unable to let go of the animals in their care.”[7] This mentality causes the “hoarders” to “really believe that only they know what’s best for these animals, and there is no other recipient of these animals that can provide the quality of care that they think they’re providing.”[8]

Because these locations are operating under a rescue name, it becomes more socially acceptable for them to house several animals. However, because they are housing so many animals, this leads to massive issues of neglect. Stricter regulations on who is eligible to create a rescue should be implemented with more oversight to protect our animal community. Individuals operating an animal rescue should be held to the same standards as licensed animal shelters, daycares, and other regulated industries. They should be inspected more regularly, be limited, even as a non-profit, to hold only so many animals at one time, retain records with the same privacy standards as other agencies, and go through proper training on how to care for animals of differing nutritional and medical needs. The fees from the training programs and licenses can help fund the oversight needed to ensure that these rescues are properly caring for the animals. Animal hoarding is animal abuse and should actively be discouraged.

[1] 201 KAR 16:080; KRS 258.119.

[2] Id.

[3] Bill Estep, Operator of no-kill animal shelter charged with 179 counts of animal cruelty, Lexington Herald Leader (Mar. 8, 2018),

[4] Id.

[5] Bill Estep and Will Wright, ‘Worst in the nation.’ Many Kentucky animal shelters substandard, violate law, Lexington Herald Leader (May 7, 2018),

[6] Bethany W. Adams, When animal rescue isn’t, Animal Sheltering isn’t (2018),

[7] Id.

[8] Id.