(posted August 2011)
Kelly's Haven is a non-profit "rescue" in Gloversville, NY founded by Sue Kelly. The ASPCA recently seized over 300 animals from the property but there was an agreement that Sue could keep 6 animals. In recent developments, she was able to get back another 13 -15 dogs, most of whom are seniors and some of whom are again confined to living in outside sheds without climate control, where they get little exercise or human attention. Most recently, there was a court battle over Jake, a 6 year old Great Pyrenees who had been turned over to a Great Pyr rescue and adopted by one of its' volunteers. On August 25, 2011, a judge announced that Jake would go back to Sue Kelly's, where this dog had previously lived alone in a filthy outside pen, his normally white coat matted and brown, feces covering most of the ground where he stood. We have no photos of Jake from back then, just disturbing memories. I observed him being turned over to the Great Pyr rescue during the seize, and to be fair, his coat looked considerably better. Sadly, the conditions in which he was living remained the same.
Since 2009, we have publicly disclosed very little information about Kelly's Haven because we hoped beyond hope that it would either improve or be shut down for good. We knew it was already under investigation. We did what we could to help the animals but ultimately had to stop because we didn't want to become enablers. We didn't put Kelly's Haven on the rescue/shelter list for fear that more animals would be dropped off than adopted.
In the case of Jake, we had hoped Sue Kelly would understand that he was better off in his new home. We hoped she would do the right thing and let him live happily in a place where he lounged on the couch, had other Great Pyr companions to play with every day, was groomed regularly and had lots of human interaction. Unfortunately, she didn't see it this way and she went to court. Mistakes had been made and the law was on her side. Unless something changes drastically, we suspect poor Jake will spend the rest of his life in squalor. Here are some photos of Jake during his brief time in his new home.
This situation is what has led us to finally speak up. It has also come to our attention that Sue Kelly intends to start "rescuing" animals again in the future. Therefore, we have decided to disclose the following information in an effort to stop this from happening.
In September 2009, we were at an event where a woman came up to our table and begged us to help out at Kelly's Haven. She said Sue Kelly was completely overwhelmed with animals and the place was filthy. I had the impression that Sue wanted the help so I contacted her. At the time, she had about 300 animals. I was willing to network with local rescues that I thought could take some of the animals off her hands and get them into loving homes. However, when I went out to take some photos, what I found was an unbearable situation. There were animals in every nook and cranny of the property including outside pens without proper shelter, unventilated sheds, a damp, dark unventilated basement, and several dark rooms with dirt floors called "the garage." I never went into the main part of the house which according to Sue housed another 75 dogs and many exotic birds. Most of the animals I saw were living in feces up to their ankles. There were pigs, horses, goats, chickens, guinea hens, dogs, cats, rabbits and birds. Many of the dogs were living chained outside 24/7. There were cats everywhere; some were stuffed into tiny cages in either steaming hot or freezing cold barns and sheds, depending on the season.
There was a calf that could barely move. He was on a short rope living in an overcrowded barn. Sue was waiting for him to mature so he could be slaughtered. She also had some aging pigs for many years who were struggling to walk but in 2010, they were sold to the Amish. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like dichotomy that on one hand someone would say they are rescuing animals and on the other, they were sending many off to be killed.
Quote from Anonymous Regarding Horses:
"I am a horse trainer, horse show judge and riding instructor and have been involved with horses for 24 plus years. In the winter of 2009, I went to Kelly's Haven to look at a dog to potentially adopt. What I found was conditions that I NEVER, EVER, want to see again in my lifetime.
Outside in front of the barn were a few horses. Most of them were extremely overweight which can cause serious problems in horses including founder (clinical name: Lamininitis) - an inflammation of the laminae, located inside the horses foot between the hoof wall and the bone where the blood supply passes through to nourish the foot. This condition can ultimately cause the coffin bone to rotate and go through the bottom of the hoof. In addition, the horses' coats were dull and lacked the luster of proper nutrition. Sue told me that she primary fed them bread. I know people who will give their horses a piece of bread as a treat, but is cannot be their main source of nutrition! I could see for myself that they had a very moldy, disgusting, round bale of hay, which can cause a host of other medical conditions including heaves or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder."
This is a photo of the barn where the calf stood. This dog, Ace also lived chained up in the same area for approximately a year. Someone was able to eventually convince Sue to allow him to go to the local SPCA but he didn't pass the assessment and had to come back to the chain. The good news is, the same person finally found him a wonderful home.
These are photos of the inside of some of the sheds where some cats roamed freely and others were stuck inside cages.
A small group of us held meetings, talked daily and spoke with Sue Kelly to try to figure out what the priorities were. Unfortunately, Sue did not believe that some of our ideas, including picking up the poop, should be a priority. Tensions escalated and the situation led me to write the following letter to Sue in October 2009:
It has come to my attention that you may believe some of my ideas are trivial and unimportant so I will try to articulate my reasoning behind some of the suggestions:
First, I believe that picking up after the animals is important for three reasons:
- For the health and cleanliness of the animals.
- To create an environment that people will want to work in. I had already spoken to potential volunteers who didn't mind helping but also did not want to be walking through poop or stepping on rodents.
- To improve the appearance of the place so that you won't have trouble with the Health Department in the future if other complaints come in.
If there is less chance that the animals will contract an illness and they feel better because they're cleaner, the volunteers are happier to come and help, and it helps to protect your rescue, why is this bad idea?
Second, I spent two 8 hours days making telephone calls and internet searches to try to find dog houses. I spoke with carpenters, made calls to price materials, looked at costs of new houses and networked with people I know to try to find dog houses. However, since we're leaving for a couple of weeks and it's getting too cold for plastic dog houses, time is of the essence. Despite my best efforts, I only found 2 maybes (which I'm still waiting to hear about) and 1 definite (through Debi). The only way we could be pro-active was to do the next best thing which is straw bale dog houses. They're not my first choice but they will be warm and they will get the dogs through the winter. If you get donations to replace them with, they can easily be taken down and used for bedding. If a dog knocks one down or messes up part of it, it is easily fixed. It wasn't going to do any good to continue to search when time is so limited so I did what I could. So far I haven't heard a better idea although I've heard you don't like this one.
If you don't like the ideas and you would prefer that I not continue, let me know.
Here is a list of things I have done or I am currently working on:
- D.I.N.E. is paying for 4 spay/neuters to start
- We have offered to purchase 2 dog houses in the event that this person won't donate them
- We're donating Kuranda dog beds as we get the money. I currently have the extra-large one
- We were planning on purchasing straw in the event that we couldn't get it donated
- We would also need to purchase material for roofing on the dog houses unless we can get donations
- We have purchased the scoopers for clean up
- I'm coordinating with Lori on appointments and transport for the spay-neuters
- I contacted Debi and asked her if she could get a consistent group out there and I believe she has followed through. We've been staying in touch so we can discuss ongoing projects and priorities.
- I have networked with numerous people regarding possible adoptions
- I have networked with people regarding possible trailer and shed donations
I have also spoken to Debi about future projects such as re-organizing the shed, getting all the food, blankets etc. into one location (which will help reduce the number of rodents that might get into the food), having food bins (to keep rodents out of food in current use), and getting volunteers to mix the food (which is ultimately better for the animals' digestive systems). You may think these are just more crazy ideas but everything I have mentioned will ultimately help the animals. Lori and I have also talked about other possibilities for the future but right now, I'm not sure if I'll be involved.
I have a thorough understanding of the big projects that need to happen and little by little, they will. There are a lot of smaller steps needed to get there. Helping the animals have a better life is everyone's end goal. It was my hope to help get a few key projects started and move on to another rescue or shelter once the dogs were warm and comfortable, animals were spayed and neutered and a good volunteer group was in place." (Last paragraph not included)
We were aware that there had been many complaints about Kelly's Haven to the Fulton County Sheriff's Department and we were hearing that it would potentially be shut down in the near future. Under that assumption, I met with investigators to provide them with the list of rescues and shelters and let them know that I had a contact who could accept all the farm animals and 25 dogs in the event that they did seize the animals. I also let them know that we could assist them in placing the rest of the animals in local rescues if we had some advanced notice.
In the meantime, a group of us went to Kelly's Haven on several occasions where we spent countless hours re-building dog houses, putting straw into dog houses, picking up feces and dead rats out from under dogs, and feeding cats and bunnies. We were especially upset and disturbed by a dog named Jethro who was very old and had an open wound on his leg. We were unable to advocate for him because he was "under a vet's care" and not up for adoption. Apparently he was on antibiotics but the wound would never get better. He limped terribly and was laying around in absolute filth. He seemed sad and in pain and it was heartbreaking. We bought him a Kuranda bed and when we put it on the floor, Sue picked up some filthy, damp blankets and tossed them on the bed without noticing that they had probably been on that floor for many months or more. Either it wasn't important to her or she was just too overwhelmed to think about it. She did seem glad that he finally had a bed. Debi and I waited until Sue left so we could pick up the blankets and throw them in the trash, along with several dead rats. We went to one of the sheds where there were hundreds of new blankets from floor to ceiling and changed out several other blankets that were so full of dirt we had trouble lifting some of them.
There were 6 un-neutered male Border Collies living in a pen outside with a half of a plastic barrel for shelter. From what I could tell, they were feral. I spoke with Sue about the possibility of working with a Border Collie Rescue which she reluctantly agreed to do. I was hoping it would be a start of Sue working effectively with other rescues as well.
On a bone chilling day in the pouring rain, I went out to Kelly's Haven with 3 volunteers from New England Border Collie Rescue.
Quote from New England Border Collie Rescue Volunteer:
"Two other volunteers and myself visited Susan Kelly's "rescue" to pickup 6 dogs that she was going to give to New England Border Collie Rescue, Inc. When we got there, the number of dogs had been changed to 3.
Susan led us through a feces filled fenced area into another feces filled fenced area so that we could see the 3 dogs that she would allow us to take. Two were in their own 10 x 10 pen with a small wooden box-like structure for shelter. The third was housed with the other 3 that she decided not to give us. It was hard to see the first two because they were inside their structure. The pen that housed the other 4 dogs only had an open ended garbage can for shelter.
The structures inside the pens where directly on the ground and the dogs had no dry area in which to sleep.
Susan had to go into the areas and literally grab the dogs and drag them out and stuff them in the crates that we had with us. She did this with all 3 of them.
We saw the remaining 3 dogs that she decided not to give to us. These dogs were so shy and fearful that they would not approach the fence or take treats that we offered.
We tried to reason with Susan to see if she would change her mind but she refused. The colder weather is upon us and these dogs do not have adequate shelter and will not have access to fresh water.
Susan told us that the 3 dogs she gave us were already vetted but she had no records to prove this.
A trip to the vet to have the dogs neutered also revealed that the dogs' coats had a form of seborrheic dermatitis, similar to rain rot in horses. The coat condition was a combination of poor diet coupled with long time exposure to the outdoor elements. The coats were sunburned and brittle with crusty oily patches underneath. The treatment for this was to bathe them with Selsun blue shampoo to relieve the inflammation and remove the scales.
In the 3 photos, one of the dogs has scars on his face from fighting, another had to be muzzled during his bath because he threatened to bite and the third was so fearful it took two days to get a collar and leash on him."
One of the dogs above was adopted by the veterinarian who initially treated him. He goes to work with her every day where he greets everyone who comes in. A second dog stayed with his foster family and is currently beginning agility training. The third was adopted to a loving family.
In July 2011 Sue relinquished 5 more Border Collies to NEBRC due to the ASPCA raid. Three of the dogs were the ones left behind 2 years ago when Sue stated that they were her pets. According to NEBCR, all five were extremely scared and shy and have required an extensive amount of rehabilitation. Despite still being quite shy and not knowing how to play with toys or other dogs, all five are coming along. Two of them are almost ready for adoption. You can find more information about their progress at nebcrfosters.blogspot.com. Their names are Kyle, Porter, Mischief, Rebel and Blake.
Unfortunately, Sue Kelly would not work with any more rescues. There were very few animals that she allowed to be adopted. She continued to collect more and more animals and there was no rhyme or reason as to why most of them became her personal pets, especially as the operation was being funded through public donations.
The following dogs are some of the lucky ones that several of us were able to find homes for, although it took a lot of convincing for Sue to finally allow Sable and Riley go.
Descriptions of Kelly's Haven by Volunteer and Potential Adopter:
"Sue put a kitten in a cage with 3 adult cats who she claimed were nursing mothers. I noticed that the kitten was trying to nurse but the adult cats were completely ignoring her. When I walked by the kitten, it would meow so loud it was like screaming. It was in total distress. When we told Sue the kitten was not being fed, she adamantly disagreed. This went on for almost two weeks. I offered to take the kitten home and she said I couldn't because it was still nursing. The next thing I knew the kitten was dead. I believe it starved to death.
Down in a filthy rotten basement where the smell of cat urine would knock you out, there was a plastic kiddie pool sitting on top of the dog crates (where the pit bulls were living). In that kiddie pool was thick brown filthy water where a good sized turtle was living. The cats that were roaming around in the basement were drinking out of it. The water was never changed. I don't know whatever happened to the turtle but it certainly deserved better living conditions than that.
When we went into one of the sheds to clean the cat cages, there was a dead rabbit in one of them. Sue stated that there were two rabbits that had gotten into a fight so she separated them, putting one into a cat carrier. Obviously it must have been severely injured and no veterinary care had been provided. Sue didn't know it had died until we told her.
I am not passing on this information to disgrace Sue Kelly. People just need to know the true facts. Sue was passionate about the animals and did care about them in her own way. There were just too many for one person to properly care for. What she thought was acceptable, was truly NOT!"
Anonymous Potential Adopter:
"The dog that I was interested in was in the basement of the house. As soon as I entered the sliding glass doors I was hit with a ghastly smell of ammonia. There were small cages with dogs everywhere and cats jumping around on top of the cages. Most of the cages were much too small for the dogs that were in them, they couldn't even stand up, let alone turn around.
Many of the dogs appeared to be very dirty and some appeared to be matted. There were many cats that were underweight including the ones that were wandering around outside. In a small building next to the barn, three were cats in small cages that very obviously had upper respiratory infections with gunk coming out of their eyes and noses. Having previously worked in a veterinary hospital for over 2 years, I was appalled.
Over all, words cannot describe what I saw that day It was so atrocious that I am shocked that it wasn't closed down sooner and my heart is heavy knowing that some animals have been sent back there. For someone that supposedly cares about animals, they certainly don't take care of in any proper way. I got the sense that Sue was extremely overwhelmed with the number of animals that she was taking care of and didn't seem to realize that she was doing more harm than good. It is a very sad situation."
Most of our group eventually parted ways with Sue Kelly but one member stayed involved for the long haul and ultimately was responsible for getting approximately 100 animals adopted over the next year and a half. If she had not done this, there would have been 400 animals instead of 300 when the ASPCA shut down the facility. Several of us initially disagreed with her decision to continue helping but cannot argue with the outcome. Based on ASPCA reports and photos, it was obvious that the living conditions did not improve for the animals but we can't even imagine what it would have been like if our friend had not put her own life on hold in order to get those animals adopted.
Sue Kelly adamantly believes she was doing the right thing for the animals in her care and that they were all happy. Her supporters believe she is the victim. They say she was overwhelmed and just needed more help.
Many people in the animal community say Sue Kelly is a hoarder and hoarding is a mental illness; to that end, there should have been intervention.
In fact, people on both sides of this issue tend to agree that that fault does not lie solely with Sue Kelly. There were in fact many "enablers" such as the financial backers who may never have actually seen what was really happening to the animals, and those who continued to bring Kelly the animals. However, Kelly was never able to say no when more animals came in, and she thought of the majority of animals as her own pets. Much of her behavior does fit the Wiki definition below:
"Animal hoarding involves keeping higher than usual numbers of animals as domestic pets without having the ability to properly house or care for them, while at the same time denying this inability. Compulsive hoarding can be characterized as a symptom of mental disorder rather than deliberate cruelty towards animals. Hoarders are deeply attached to their pets and find it extremely difficult to let the pets go. They typically cannot comprehend that they are harming their pets by failing to provide them with proper care. Hoarders tend to believe that they provide the right amount of care for their pets."
Although the animals at Kelly's Haven were fed, they certainly were not psychologically, behaviorally or physically sound. They had little exercise, human attention and training. They did not have appropriate shelter. Several were either tethered or had very little space to move around. They were living in filthy conditions where sickness had the potential to run rampant. A lot of animals appeared to be distressed.
We are not posting this information to attack Sue Kelly. Anyone who knows her will tell you she can be a very likable person and we know she cares about the animals. However, her actions were not in the best interest of the animals and therefore, we do not want her (or anyone else) to put more animals in this type of situation ever again.