Metro Animal Services director leaving for job in D.C. - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Metro Animal Services director leaving for job in D.C.

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Less than two years after taking over the troubled Metro Animal Services department, Justin Scally is leaving for a job in Washington D.C.  While Scally is credited with helping vastly improve conditions, some question how much progress has been made in his short tenure.

Scally will become the National Director of the American Humane Association's Red Star Emergency Services. The position in the nation's capital places him closer to his family in Maryland.

The city says the search for a new director will begin immediately, and an interim director will not be named.

"I will oversee operations as it relates to animal disasters as well as animal cruelty situations," Scally told reporters Monday afternoon.

Scally took over Metro Animal Services after it had been mired by controversy. Former director Gilles Meloche resigned amid lawsuits and allegations of sexual harassment. Wayne Zelinsky resigned in early 2011 after reports surfaced of poor conditions and that he was running an adult business on the side.

Scally is credited with improving conditions.

"I think that we've really done so much work here in a very short period of time. we have made some changes to the Manslick facility., increased live release rate and decreased the euthanasia rate.

When asked if he was satisfied with Scally's efforts, Mayor Greg Fischer said: "Oh gosh we have improved so much in the time - those guys work so hard. We are very happy with the contribution he has made," Fischer told WDRB News.

Scally said of the department's improvements: "the ship has been righted and it will continue to move in the right direction."

Councilman Kelly Downard called Scally "a hard worker" but questions how much progress was made. Downard believes the department is still "in the red" financially and that too many animals are being killed needlessly. 

"With the ship. It was the Titanic. The only thing it can do is get better," Downard, R - Council District 16, said during a phone interview with WDRB News.

Downard also called the process to hire Scally 'ridiculous.'

"I wish him well. I was critical of the process and I hope it gets better because it was a train wreck," said Downard.

Downard says little input was sought from those on the search committee.  Mayor Fischer wouldn't say whether that same formula would be used to hire a new director.

"We'll have to see. We are in a much better position. Our live release rate is way up. Our euthanasia rate is down. Sadiqa Reynolds is chief over (hiring) and will make those decisions," Fischer said.

No Kill Louisville, an animal rescue agency, told WDRB News that it wishes Scally the best and hopes Mayor Fischer "is sensitive to our concerns" regarding animals being put down.

Fischer praised Scally's tenure, saying in a news release, "Justin and his team have done an incredible job on starting the transformation at animal services — staff morale is up, improved relationships have developed within the animal welfare community, kennel wellness has drastically improved, live release rates have increased, euthanasia rates are decreasing and facility improvements have been made."

Scally said, "I accepted the new position with a heavy heart, but I look forward to the beginning of a new journey in animal protection on a national level."

Lori Redman, president of the Kentucky Humane Society, also had words of praise for Scally: "Justin immediately started cultivating relationships throughout the animal welfare community....The work he has done in his short time will have a lasting impact."  

Scally took the position with MAS in August of 2011.  The department had been shut down earlier that summer to be cleaned following an outbreak of distemper.  Earlier that year, a WDRB News investigation uncovered feces-covered kennels that led to an outbreak of parvo. Both illnesses can be fatal to animals. 

Scally said at the time his "top priorities" included implementing a new set of standards to place an emphasis on disease control.

Previous stories:
Almost a year later, how is Metro Animal Services doing?
Animal Services director makes changes in policy
New LMAS Director greets the public, draws criticism

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