(Reporter's Note: As a cat rescuer, in 2010 this reporter partnered with another local rescue that was closely involved with Boggs Mountain and their Director Peanut Kilby. This reporter along with a friend transported dogs from the shelter to Pennsylvania in the Boggs Mountain van, and in partnership with this other rescue pulled cats from Boggs Mountain for rescue. The reason this reporter stopped working with the local rescue was because of suspicions that something wasn't quite right at Boggs Mountain, and the refusal to take a litter of bob-tailed hemingway kittens there and leave them. There was no proof, and nothing to point at - it was just a feeling. This reporter is not happy that the feeling was right.)
Today's conviction of former Boggs Mountain Director Lowanda "Peanut" Kilby on 60 counts of theft and racketeering came as a shock to many in the rescue world. Boggs Mountain Humane Shelter, located in the small mountain rural community of Tiger, near Clayton, Georgia, had the reputation at one time of miracle workers.
Boggs Mountain worked with rescues all over the nation, both in bringing in animals and sending them out in order to save their lives. The Boggs Mountain van regularly traveled to the northeast full of dogs and puppies bound for new homes. As for cats, they don't have the possibility of going to another place for a better chance at a home - shelters everywhere are overrun with cats. Boggs Mountain claimed an overwhelming success with placing cats in good homes all over the southeast.
Today's conviction however indicates that those claims may have been unfounded, and left rescuers and animal owners everywhere stunned, wondering if they unknowingly were involved in causing the very thing they were fighting to avoid - the unnecessary death of a wonderful companion animal.
Boggs Mountain's "Lucky Dog and Cat" program claimed that for a $100 donation for Rabun County residents and $140 for those outside of Rabun County, a pet owner could bring their companion animal to the shelter and BMHS guaranteed that the pet would not be euthenized, and that the shelter would work diligently until good homes would be found for them. When a Lucky Dog or Cat was adopted, an email would be sent to the former owner, or in some cases a sponsor donor, letting them know that their Lucky Dog or Cat had found a wonderful new home. Unfortunately it seems that not all dogs and cats that went to Boggs Mountain were so lucky.
In 2012 Fox 5 Atlanta sent in an undercover team after an employee at the shelter, Lynne Cousins contacted them. She told reporter Randy Travis the sad truth about what had been happening to these animals that were supposed to be saved, and Travis led an undercover hidden camera investigation into the shelter to find out if what he had heard was true. Unfortunately it was - so sad and true that two "Lucky Dogs" he had been playing with were killed in the hour between visiting undercover and coming back with a camera crew to interview Kilby regarding the allegations. Kilby went so far as to try to forcefully keep Travis out of the shelter to verify that the dogs were gone. More information about the Randy Travis' Fox 5 Atlanta investigation can be found at http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/story/25476746/jury-selection-to-start-in-an...
Cousins has testified that she tried to let others know before going to the press, including the members of the Boggs Mountain Humane Society Board of Directors, but no one would believe her or check for themselves. The day after Randy Travis and Fox 5's crew visited the shelter and confronted Peanut Kilby, Lynne Cousins was called in and asked to either resign or she would be fired.
Cousins says that she questioned Kilby on several occasions because she was asked to send out the emails and cards to those who surrendered or sponsored the killed animals, telling them that their pet had been adopted when in reality it had been euthenized by the county shelter next door where Kilby was also in charge. The Director claimed that they were sending out the false contacts to "comfort" the owners and donors, claiming that they had been through enough just releasing the animals to the shelter. Cousins was not convinced, and after two years she could no longer take it.
As for the donations, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe discovered a number of irregularities, including secret financial accounts and trips to Harrah's casino in Cherokee, NC by Kilby, where between 2008 and 2012 she reportedly spent over 250 thousand dollars. There are still questions regarding donations made at fundraising events and by other donors to the shelter that have not yet been answered. The Boggs Mountain website is still online to this day, asking for donations and the Lucky Dog and Cat program is still featured prominently on the front page. www.boggshumaneshelter.com
Tomorrow a Rabun County court will decide what punishment Peanut Kilby will receive, but the punishment won't end there. Whenever there is an incident of this nature, where the public trust is abused, the consequences rarely stop at the courthouse walls. Donors everywhere will wonder "If this was going on here, with their stellar reputation, what is going on in my community?"
Rescue is not a profession that one enters lightly, or to make money. It's a labor of love, and one can expect long hours, little funds and many heartaches in their attempt to save companion animals from death. Still, there are brave souls in every community who dedicate their lives to animal rescue and work hard to save as many pets as possible. Most of these rescues depend on the kindness of donors within their community to help with food, medicine, cleaning supplies and vet bills, and rely on volunteers to help with everything from cleaning to socializing to networking and marketing. Whenever a rescue proves themselves to be undeserving of the time and money donated by a community, other rescues suffer as well, and to some who are already operating on a shoestring, this kind of event or situation can bring about their own closure through no fault of their own. When this happens, the animals suffer the most.
Until this country passes stricter laws and harsher punishments for those who engage in the abuse of animals in whatever form it takes, more Peanut Kilbys will attempt to hide illegal actions under the guise of animal rescue, and it is up to the communities they serve to make sure that this does not happen. No animal should ever have to suffer because someone wants to make a quick buck.