2011-10-08 / Editorials & Letters

‘Watchdog’ says county dog pound is doing less with more

Editor:

You work; you buy a home; you pay taxes; you get a puppy; buy a dog license; you have kids; you let the kids get a puppy...buy another dog license...every year. Inflation; depression; recession; the bottom drops out of the economy. You lose your job; you lose your home; you have to move to an apartment; you can’t take your puppy who is now a big dog that can’t be kept in an apartment. The humane society doesn’t have room for your dog. Grudgingly, you will take your dog to the county dog pound and pray they will find him a good home. Wrong!!!

The Licking County dog pound took HUGE steps forward when the community insisted on the removal of the gas chamber. But with John Silva (long-time friend of the former dog warden) at the helm, they took HUGE steps backward by cutting the services to the public (humane calls, taking in cats, taking in owner surrendered dogs, humane euthanasia for dogs of low income families, etc.).

I receive regular calls from people needing to place their animals. They tell me the pound won’t take their animals because they don’t take “owner surrenders.” I asked Silva why he didn’t take in owner surrenders and he answered by saying, “The dog pound is the stray dog operation.” One of the pound employees told me they DON’T take owner surrenders because, “We don’t HAVE to.”

I told this employee that the pound’s intake records (state sheets) show some dogs logged in as “surrendered.” Do they take some surrenders and not others? He said they were returns - when they adopt the animal out, you have two weeks to return it. I questioned why a returned dog wouldn’t say “returned” rather than “surrendered” and he said they were noted as a return. “No,” I said, “the dogs I am talking about are not noted as being returned....they say “surrendered.” He said he would have to ask the person who logged them in.

It’s no wonder people are getting frustrated when the pound won’t help them. On the pound’s homepage for its website under the “surrender and rescue” link, it says: “If you are in need of surrendering your pet you can surrender an adoptable dog to the Licking County Animal Shelter for a $20 fee with proof of license. Adoptable cats can be surrendered for a $5 fee. If you do not wish to surrender your pet to the shelter, the following is a list of Rescue Groups that may be able to help. In addition, many of these rescues are foster based; therefore, if you are interested in fostering please contact them directly.” Also in the pound’s own policy manual it notes to the employee behind the counter, “When accepting a dog that is being surrendered by the owner...always have them sign the Receiving Form release.”

Part of the duties of the dog warden is that they must keep records of the dogs that come into the facility and they must provide those records to the county commissioners on a weekly basis. The records (state sheets) are available to the public. Prior to Silva, we received these records via email (from an office manager making about $20,000 LESS than Silva per year) on a weekly basis. I asked Silva if we could start getting them again, weekly. His answer was that they are monthly reports. However, the law (ORC) says, “They shall make weekly reports, in writing, to the board in their respective counties of all dogs seized, impounded, redeemed, and destroyed and of all claims for damage to animals inflicted by dogs.” It doesn’t say “when Silva wants to make reports.” It clearly says, they SHALL make WEEKLY reports IN WRITING!

The Licking County dog pound operates on about a HALF MILLION dollar budget per year and it looks like about 2/3 of that is spent on wages and benefits. Silva was hired in March, 2009 from Cuyahoga County where he was just a few days shy of retiring as the Cuyahoga County Dog Warden. He did officially retire from Cuyahoga County after he was hired at Licking County as the Office Manager at a starting salary of $47,000 (about $10,000 more than the previous Office Manager was making).

Silva was made the “acting dog warden” in October, 2010 after former dog warden, Jon Luzio, retired. Silva’s salary as of October, 2010 is $55,600 and I’m pretty sure that is more than Luzio was making.

Since February, 2011, four new employees have been hired at the pound. Prior to Silva’s command, the pound operated with six employees. The total count of employees in August was TEN but one newly hired person did quit.....so there are now NINE employees at the pound!!! Of those nine employees, four were hired from outside of Licking County.

I’m not sure why Silva needs so many employees since they take in half as many dogs as they did before and the workload has been cut in half. At this rate, they will soon be taking in more employees than animals!!! And outof county employees - aren’t the LICKING County commissioners supposed to be looking out for LICKING County citizens/taxpayers?! They do, after all, have the final decision in hiring.

While I’m on the subject of “out of county” employees I thought I’d share something interesting from the Commissioner’s minutes of September 27, 2011: Commissioner Smith reported the Planning Commission met last evening and approved a resolution to authorize hotel expenses for an out of state candidate in anticipation of extending an offer for the position of Planning Director.” Furthermore, “The potential candidate for the Director’s position is currently residing in North Carolina and will need overnight stay accommodations. The search committee, which includes five LCPC board members and one Licking County Board of Commissioners’ member has requested accommodations be made for the applicant to stay overnight at the Cherry Valley Lodge. Room rates are $81.62 per night, and a two-night stay will total $163.24.”

No wonder our property values went up even though homes aren’t selling!

Bonnie Mansfield
Buckeye Lake

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