Woman Makes Difficult Decision on Wingo Shelter
By Candice Freeland
PADUCAH, KY - Michelle Fowler says she had to follow her conscience when it came to working with Animal Rescue Corps to get nearly 100 dogs off the property of her friend Shannon Lacewell of Paws and Claws animal shelter in Wingo.

Fowler said on Tuesday she believes that Shannon Lacewell did have the best interest of the dogs at heart when she first started taking in animals at her Graves County facility. But she adds that, over time, it seemed that Lacewell could not see that she was "in over her head" as the dog population grew, and the health of some of the animals began to decline.

Fowler says it became difficult to reason with Lacewell, and that she told her a number of times she should give up the dogs, and keep a couple of them as pets for herself, but says Lacewell never saw it that way. She says that finally, she had to go with her conscience and work with Animal Rescue Corps to get the dogs removed.

"You look at it and you think okay, what is the better?  Would it be better if that dog was to be euthanized, or better for it to be stuck in the horrific mess that was there? I mean, I don't think it was an intentional cruelty. I think she did get in over her head. I think at one time it was about the animals...she just kept taking in more and more."

Fowler says she believes that money did eventually play a role in Lacewell's continuing to operate the shelter, since she sent many of her dogs to homes in the northern portion of the United States. This is not an unusual practice. It's one that Fowler engages in herself.
"You do get a different type of home up north. I take my dogs up north. You do get a better home. But you also get a higher adoption fee. And, you know, as long as the dogs are vetted and healthy when you do that, then I mean it's beneficial because then you have funds that you make there that you can come back and put into your animals here. But what happened was, she had all the other ninety-something there that weren't vetted. That were just wasting away because they weren't the priority to be adopted out. They weren't the priority for this or that. And then, you know, they all became casualties."

Fowler's attorney, Tod Megibow of Paducah, says he commends her for having the courage to step forward. He noted that animal cruelty is a misdemeanor in Kentucky, and both he and Fowler say they hope this situation will prompt community members to consider a shelter rescue for their next pet.

Megibow says personnel from Animal Rescue Corps have told him that veterinary bills for the nearly 100 dogs are "astronomical." As for who will pay those bills, Megibow says that hasn't been determined, but added that Kentucky statutes allow for the party responsible for incurring the bills to be responsible for paying them. He says all the evidence gathered by Animal Rescue Corps has been turned over to the Graves County Sheriff's Department and the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office. 

As for Shannon Lacewell, Michelle Fowler says she wishes things would have turned out differently for her. When asked if she and Lacewell were still on speaking terms, she responded, "probably not, after today."  

Published 04:28 PM, Wednesday Feb. 22, 2012
Updated 06:44 PM, Thursday Feb. 23, 2012