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Shelter’s new top dog already knows tricks

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Former shelter employee Federle hired as director

By Lisa King

Shelby County has a new animal control director, a man who a year ago left the county’s employ as an animal control officer to purse another job.

Now Leon Federle is back, this time at the helm of the Shelby County Animal Shelter, replacing longtime interim director Rusty Newton.

Federal, 46, originally from Louisville and a commercial electrician by trade, also has experimented with a variety of employment over the last few years, he said.

Along with taking care of some rental property he has in Louisville, he has worked at Lowe’s in Shelbyville around the time it opened in 2007, at the Shelby County Road Department, and, most recently, for a year and a half at the animal shelter, taking a break from that about a year ago.

“I was just focusing on my real estate,” he said, referring to some property that he owns in Louisville.

Then he heard there was an opening at the animal shelter, he said.

“I have always liked animals, so I applied, and I got the job,” he said.

The Shelby County Fiscal Court on Sept. 6 hired Federle at a salary of $42,000 per year.

There have been about half a dozen animal control directors before Federle, dating back to when the shelter was established in the 1970s, said Newton, who has been interim director since replacing Monica Robinson in 2007.

Newton said that position was supposed to have been temporary but turned into a 6-year stint because he really enjoyed being around animals, but he said the time had come to put a more permanent person into the position who could devote their attention to it full time. Newton has a full-time role as deputy county judge-executive.

“Things ran really well, but what with the other responsibilities I have and things that I could be working on in this office, we needed someone else to fill that position,” he said. “We received three applications, and one of those was from Leon. With the experience he already has in animal control, plus his leadership ability, we felt like he was the best person for the job.”

Bradley King, animal control supervisor at the shelter, said Federal already has made an impact.

“He’s come in and made things quite a bit easier for us,” he said. “He’s got a laid back personality, and I think he’s going to be a really good fit. He actually worked with us about a year ago. He was an animal control officer. He was gone for about a year, and now he’s back.”

The shelter always has been in the same location on Kentucky Street but has expanded twice, the first time in 2005, when the current building was built, and the last time a year ago, when it added a facility for spaying and neutering.

The facility has a capacity of 60 dogs and 80 cats and always hovers right around those marks, Newton said. He added that in the six years that he has been director, 9,500 dogs and cats have been fed and housed at the shelter at a cost of $882,000. The shelter has an annual budget of $147,000 and employs three full-time employees, plus the director.
“I have to mention our volunteers, also,” Newton said. “We always have anywhere between twenty-five to thirty volunteers at all times. It’s difficult to operate on such a small budget, but our volunteers really help us to do that.”

Newton said the most challenging issue he has faced during the years is trying to make the public aware of the obligations that go along with pet ownership, especially that of trying to keep the pet population in Shelby under control.

“The owner is responsible when it comes to spaying and neutering – it’s an ongoing issue,” he said. “But through education and other animal groups, we try to get the word out about the importance of spaying and neutering, because it [not doing so] puts a huge burden on the shelter. We are limited on space, but we are starting to see a decline in those numbers, due in part to all those groups that are working hard to reach out to people who may not have the money to spay and neuter.”

Newton said that several animal groups in the northern portion of the nation have been very helpful in recent years in helping to find homes for some of the shelter’s problem animals – pit bulls.

“We get them the most,” he said. “People get them when they’re pups, and they grow too big to accommodate. They are the toughest ones to find homes for. We have transported several from our shelter to rescue groups in northern states. They’re known for their aggression, but a number of them are nonaggressive. They have a bad reputation, but it’s understandable because of the muscle and strength of the animal.”

Federle said he has ideas he has been kicking around about some changes for the shelter, but doesn’t want to talk about that at this stage. He on Tuesday had his first meeting with members of the county’s animal control committee, Eddie Kingsolver, Allen Ruble, Tony Carriss and Michael Riggs.

“I will be discussing some plans I have with them,” he said.