A Bright Future for Butler County Animal Shelter

February 8, 2023

Ruby has been the director of Butler County Ky. Animal Shelter for five years. As a former vet tech, she brings a lot of critical skills and animal knowledge to the job, but what she really brings is some serious smarts, of-the-charts resourcefulness, and a commitment to saving lives.

The tiny shelter handled over 600 animals last year and at the time of our visit in November has already handled 733 in 2022. Ruby says she’s not happy with her numbers, but her save rate is about 94%, which is pretty darn good for a small shelter with limited resources in an economically challenged area.

Ruby has lots of smart practices in place and the dogs we met were happy and friendly. It was a beautiful day and they were all outside in different play areas. The shelter has 16 kennels, but at the time of our visit, they weren’t full because a recent transport had taken a lot of their adults, and at least one of the dogs we met was being adopted that afternoon. We were greeted by lots of adorable puppies lounging in the sunshine in outside play yards.

We also met Padfoot, a beautiful dog with blue-heeler coloring who was hit by a car and is waiting a surgery to amputate her front leg that is not repairable and dangles uselessly. Despite that, she was moving quite well on three legs and, like the other dogs we met, was affectionate and friendly.

The shelter is actually a 501c3 and is contracted by the county to handle its dogs. The county does not have an ACO, so their policemen do the best they can running the animal calls. Ruby hopes eventually the county (and the city) will get a trained ACO.

We got a peek at the plans created by a local architect in collaboration with Ruby for a new shelter building. Ever since taking the job, Ruby has been fundraising and ‘saving every penny’ in a savings account for the new shelter. They’ve raised 160K so far. They raise a lot of money through their Indoor Yard Sale held in another building on the property every first and third Saturday. The enormous metal building is set up like a resale shop and handled exclusively by shelter volunteers.

They shelter also raises money through a monthly dog wash (and nail trim/ear cleaning), t-shirt sales (they have great t-shirts and gave Nancy and I each one!), food trucks, and a recent mum sale. But Ruby is really good at pinching pennies, she explained. Melanie, who has worked at the shelter for four years, nodded her head in agreement.

Melanie started working at the shelter after she found a stray dog hanging around town near a gas station. When she saw people kicking at it to keep it away, she bought the dog a steak sandwich and realized the dogs was crawling with fleas. She took the dog to the shelter and offered to foster it. She ended up working at the shelter and adopting the dog who turned out to be heartworm positive. Sassy recovered fine from a slow-kill treatment for heartworms and Melanie has foster failed five more times since. At the moment she has six dogs of her own, one foster dog, and planned to bring a puppy home with her after work to foster until it can get on a transport to its adopter in December.

Ruby has lots of great practices in place, like getting the dogs out every day and rewarding them with a treat when they come back inside. The dogs actually scratch at the door to come back in rather than having to be dragged back to their kennels. All of their dogs are vaccinated on intake, tested for heartworm, dewormed, microchipped, and nothing leaves without being spayed and neutered.

The new shelter will have a veterinary clinic and an education room, and Ruby wants the shelter to be not just for the dogs but for the community. She’s been traveling to visit other shelters to see designs and gather best practices.

Ruby is another great example of one person leading the way in a county that is lucky to have her. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and her resourcefulness is remarkable. As we were leaving, she shared her idea for creating coloring books for kids to educate them about shelter dogs and humane care. She used to have access to free coloring books from another organization, but recently her source started charging for the books. She wondered if we might know someone who would take on the project and a sponsor to pay for them. We, of course, love this idea and agreed to work on it (anyone out there want to help with this?).

If you’d like to support the work of Ruby and Mel and the Butler County Animal Shelter, shop their Amazon wishlist.

And consider following them on Facebook at Butler County Ky. Animal Shelter to see all the clever ways this amazing young director is saving lives and helping her community.

Until each one has a home,


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Learn more about what is happening in our southern shelters and rescues in the book, One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues (Pegasus Books, 2020). It’s the story of a challenging foster dog who inspired me to travel south to find out where all the dogs were coming from. It tells the story of how Who Will Let the Dogs Out began. Find it anywhere books are sold. A portion of the proceeds of every book sold go to help unwanted animals in the south.

For more information on any of our projects, to talk about rescue in your neck of the woods, please email whowillletthedogsout@gmail.com or carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

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