There’s a lot more than dog poop that needs to be cleaned up at Louisville’s dog pound. Even though our disgraced dogcatcher, Dr. Gilles Meloche, resigned at the end of 2009, the damage he caused is still with us; and the black cloud of allegations of misfeasance, malfeasance, sexual harassment, and animal cruelty generated during his four-year reign is also still hanging around. Now, it looks like Louisville’s brand-new mayor is serious about cleaning up the mess at Metro Animal Services.
Fourteen months ago, a lawsuit was filed in federal court, alleging that Meloche and other animal control officers misused the city’s animal ordinance to seize citizens’ dogs as part of an effort to make revenue for the city. Around the same time, in Jefferson Circuit Court, former animal care manager Dawn M. Simpson filed a lawsuit accusing Meloche of “unwanted sexual touching,” claiming Meloche “hugged her from behind and kissed her” at restaurant with other co-workers present. Simpson resigned in August, claiming others had retaliated against her. Meloche was accused of repeatedly telling animal services workers about his tight relationship with Mayor Jerry E. Abramson, in an effort to prevent any complaints; referring to that relationship being like “gay love.” He was also accused of using some pretty gross language in front of male and female staff alike. When then-Sen. Hillary Clinton defeated Sen. Barack Obama in Kentucky’s Democratic primary in May 2008, Meloche allegedly remarked “These rednecks would rather have a (crude word referring to a woman’s anatomy) than a (crude word referring to African-Americans).”
Dr. Meloche was the target of almost constant disparagement (particularly here at Louisville City Hall Examiner) since his arrival in Louisville, in the summer of 2005. Appointed as Director of Metro Animal Services by Mayor Abramson, after a “national search,” he replaced Eric Blow, who retired after leading the agency for more than 27 years. At the time, Mayor Abramson praised Dr. Meloche as “…the person to lead Metro Animal Services to a new day.” Abramson claimed Meloche “…has a history of improving the agencies he’s worked with and making them more efficient and responsive to the community.” Meloche eventually generated mounting criticism and allegations of mismanagement, sexual harassment, killing kittens without anesthesia, and citizens who complained of adopting sick animals.
But the Canadian kitten killer and his mayoral mentor are now gone, and Friday, Louisville’s new mayor announced a major overhaul of Metro Animal Services. Citing lingering concerns over animal welfare and public safety, Mayor Greg Fischer has ordered a top-to-bottom review of Metro Animal Services and announced that his administration will immediately launch its promised search for a new permanent director of the agency.
The review is the second that Fischer has announced, following Public Works and Assets, to ensure that city departments are operating at their best. The review will examine how Animal Services cares for animals, policies and procedures for euthanasia and will track the city’s adoption rate in recent years. The review will benchmark Louisville’s animal welfare and control efforts with other cities nationwide and look for best practices.
“As mayor, I want every city department to be the best in the world, and I believe that we can work together to improve Animal Services,” Fischer said. “The city has already made significant strides with the recent opening of the new adoption center in Newburg, but I believe we need to do even better.”
Sadiqa Reynolds, Chief of Community Building, will oversee the effort, which will include input from government employees and private citizens. She will immediately begin consulting with community and Animal Service leaders on the review and name a review team before Jan. 28.
Fischer said Animal Services Interim Director Wayne Zelinsky will remain in the role while the review is being conducted. “I want to decrease the homeless pet population, reduce euthanasia and increase adoption rates – and we can look to other cities to see how they’ve accomplished those goals,” Fischer said.
Metro Councilman Kelly Downard (R., Dist. 16) and Councilwoman Tina Ward Pugh (D., Dist. 9) immediately offered their bi-partisan support for Mayor Fischer’s announcement.
Kelly Downard, Past Chair of the Metro Council’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, said: “The problems at Metro Animal Services have gone on for too long. I thank Mayor Fischer for taking quick action to address this issue and begin a thorough review of the practices and policies at Metro Animal Services. I look forward to supporting Mayor Fischer, as we work to make Louisville MAS the best run organization in the country.”
Tina Ward Pugh, Chair of the Metro Council’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, said: “I commend the Mayor for this action. For too long there have been too many questions about operations, policies and practices of LMAS. The Metro Council has spent much time and effort to help LMAS with new ordinances and funding for facilities but concerns persist. Those of us in this community who love and care for animals want to make sure we and the people who take care of animals are doing the right thing. I am ready to assist in any way possible and I look forward to seeing the final results of the mayor’s action.”
Read previous Louisville City Hall Examiner reports:
Louisville dogcatcher describes relationship with mayor as being like “gay love”
Louisville dog catcher put down by Mayor
Will Louisville’s mayor fire a kitten killer?
Latest Metro Animal Services scandals brewing
Louisville Metro Animal Services scandal continues
Will Metro Animal Services scandal ever end?
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