Darren Doyle, story
The Edmonson County PAWS Humane Society attended fiscal court on Monday to thank the county for their continued support as well as recognize the assistance and support of county animal control officer, Eric Roscoe.
The group updated the court on their recent fundraisers and to address the issue of an additional group that has formed, the Humane Society of Edmonson County, with which PAWS said they are not affiliated, due to a pending lawsuit involving the county and the chairperson of the new group.
Katie Smith, Chairperson of HSEC, and her husband, are both plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit against the county and the former animal shelter which was closed in June, 2016.
"If everybody in this county was working together to solve problems and going the same direction together it would be so much easier," said Judge Executive Wil Cannon. "But we've got this other group over here that's trying to do the same thing as PAWS and what's going to happen is, people are going to be confused as to which group is which, if they want to donate money."
Susan Donoghue, PAWS board member, said when their group first started meeting, Smith wanted to be part of the group. She said that PAWS felt like it was a conflict of interest to allow Smith into the organization with the current lawsuit, as PAWS was trying to work alongside the county, not against it.
"It was not that we didn't want her because she's very knowledgeable and very smart," Donoghue said. "But until this conflict was resolved, we couldn't include her at this time, on our board. What her intentions are for forming another group in this county, I have no idea."
Judge Cannon said he was only interested in backing one of the groups. "PAWS was here in the beginning of this thing and I believe they're the group we need to support."
Smith says that HSEC is not a conflict of interest in any way. "We don't think that there is any conflict of interest in working with PAWS, but it is their decision," she said. "Until the county supplies them with money, land, or a building they are not working with the county, just letting the county know how there efforts are progressing."
Scott Lindsey, vice president of PAWS, said PAWS was indeed working with the county. "We were so pleased and honored to get the endorsement from Judge Will Cannon at yesterday’s Fiscal Court meeting," he said. "He along with the Magistrates have been extremely welcoming, and have offered to lend their support any time we need them. Our members even went with Judge Cannon after the Fiscal Court meeting yesterday to look at possible locations for the building site of a new shelter."
Smith said the reason for forming HSEC had nothing to do with PAWS not allowing her to serve in their group. Instead, she said PAWS waited too long to get organized and to come up with a game plan.
"HSEC was founded in the beginning of August after giving the PAWS group more than enough time to organize and get all of their paperwork together and submitted," she said. "It has been almost 10 weeks since the announcement of PAWS. I was told of it's beginnings 10 days before that announcement. So we waited patiently for 8 weeks for something legal and lasting. When we didn't see it come we took action. We are more than willing to work with PAWS and bring them under the umbrella of our 501(c)(3)."
Lindsey said it takes time to get the paperwork done properly. "We didn't have an attorney on retainer because we aren't involved in any lawsuits. We searched until we could find an attorney that would offer their services at no cost so we could use our funds for the right reasons. We want to make sure that when people donate to PAWS, we use that money for the benefit of the animals of Edmonson County. So in our minds, if it takes a little longer, that’s ok, because we're saving thousands of dollars that can go to the welfare of our animals."
Smith also said that her group, HSEC, was the only humane society in Edmonson County.
"PAWS has never claimed to be a humane society," Smith said. "It is not stated in any of their advertising, their Facebook page or on their web site that they are a humane society. They in fact, claim to "work toward building a humane society." We do, however, believe that there is always room for animal welfare groups of all types."
Lindsey disagreed and said he wanted to clarify that PAWS was indeed a humane society.
"We weren’t aware that someone would take our name so literally," he said. "We also weren’t expecting this to be turned in to a competition. No, we didn't put “Humane Society” into our wording, or “brand”, but in reality, that has been the plan from day one."
Smith said HSEC is willing to work in conjunction with PAWS to meet the shared goal. "We don't want an "Us Vs. Them" mentality at all. Hopefully, with two capable groups working on the issue we can get to our shared goal even faster."
She also said that government support wasn't the focus of her group, but to simply raise funds for an animal shelter.
"I can understand Mr. Cannon and his feeling that PAWS should be the only group," she said. "Quite frankly, with all of the shelter issues that have gone on, I bet he was hoping not to see my name associated with anymore of it at all."
She said she's worked for almost two years without government support, but that even if she had received support, it would have been from a government that was opposed to bring the former shelter up to standard or closing it altogether.
When asked if her mission could be accomplished without county support, she said, "Yes we do believe that it can be done. It might not be easy, but things worth fighting for rarely are."
Lindsey said PAWS would continue trying to reach the same goals that they've had from the beginning.
"Our mission, dedication, and passion for our animals and our county, has not, and will not change. We want to work with the officials of Edmonson County as well as everyone else," he said. "But we have to do it in a sensible and proper manner. We want to build a self-sustaining shelter, and make sure that everything that we do is the right thing for our animals and our county."