LOGAN — The newly appointed Dog Warden is Deputy David Wright of the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office. And, he’s not messing around when it comes to caring for the dogs.
According to HCSO Chief Deputy David Valkinburg, a call came in last week regarding possible animal cruelty. Wright visited the location, where no one was home, but there was an outside dog with no food or water and in noticeably poor condition. This prompted him to request a search warrant.
Wright entered the home and seized three more dogs and a caged guinea pig. An investigation is currently in process with possible criminal charges being filed.
“He’s jumping in head first,” HCSO Major Caleb Moritz commented with regard to the transition and efforts of Wright that have already started.
Moritz is actively working to support the dogs too by volunteering to oversee a rehab project at the fairground shelter. He explained that the Sheriff’s Office is in need of a temporary housing area for the dogs that are not able to immediately go to the Hocking County Humane Society.
The Hocking County Commissioners approved to allow Major Moritz to organize this effort; however, Commissioner Sandra Ogle pointed out that there is currently an 18-month timeframe where any efforts, especially by volunteers, need to be seen as temporary. At the end of the 18 months, it is still unknown by the Commissioners, Sheriff’s Office and Humane Society what will happen to the shelter at the fairgrounds.
“Three of my five dogs came from that shelter. It’s something I take seriously,” said Moritz with an affirmative smile.
Valkinburg commented that having the responsibilities falling under the Sheriff’s Office “speeds up the service.” He also said that there are, “multiple counties” that assume the duties of the warden.
“This is a win-win for the county,” said Valkinburg. He explained that they get a lot of calls that would have been sent to the former warden. Now they can just go straight to the new warden, and other citations can be issued in addition to the animal related ones, if they present themselves during an investigation.
“The penalty is cheaper than the citation,” Valkinburg advised when speaking of the need to purchase dog tags. “I know he (Wright) will be following up pretty aggressively on owners having tags.”
The normal hours for Wright will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“If any calls come in at other times, any officer will be able to respond to it and then he will do the follow-up work when he comes in,” explained Valkinburg.
Training has already been scheduled for Wright to attend in July to bring him up to speed on the duties required of the dog warden. However, he is not a stranger to the role.
According to Moritz, when they were asking who would want the position, among the deputies, Wright was the only one to volunteer. He has had a working relationship with the Humane Society in the past and was even their recommendation for who they would like to work with, when asked by the Sheriff’s Office.
During the Thursday Commissioners’ meeting, Moritz shared that the position was worked into the current operating budget of the Sheriff’s Office. He also said that they are getting support from the Fairfield County Dog Shelter with following protocol.
Commissioner Gary Waugh was sincere in thanking the Sheriff’s Office for the work they’ve done already to help in this transition time.
“The Sheriff’s Office has stepped up big time. They’re just a bunch of nice people and I just want to thank them,” Waugh said.
Lanette Blair, representative of the Humane Society, was “excited” to see that Deputy Wright was coming to help at the Humane Society. He will spend time at that location on Hocking Drive as well as be on the road when needed.
During a visit to the Humane Society, the staff and HAPCAP volunteers were right in the swing of things, cleaning, feeding and talking to the animals. Blair greeted Deputy Wright as he was coming in, gave some tasks to be done by the three volunteers and provided a tour of the facility and grounds.
The Humane Society has been around for about 15 years, according to Blair. She said they have had a very strong volunteer program that works daily.
“For the summer we have three HAPCAP volunteers who come five days a week to clean, feed, and do general animal care. We get volunteers regularly from Sech-Kar in Nelsonville, and HVI (Hocking Valley Industries),” said Blair.
The HAPCAP volunteers are part of a job development program that has the location of volunteerism help teach them work ethics and responsibilities, like being on time and following directions.
She continued, “We’ve had a lot of calls for volunteers, but we are set with the ones we have for now and we’re still just trying to get things up and running with all of the changes the past few months and additional animals.”
A Boy Scout, Rafe Koren, who is working on the Eagle Scout award is provided help over the past weekend. He is building a three-sided shelter of wood and metal that can used for larger animals. Blair said that the shelter will have running water inside and they’ll be able to do hoof trimming on the horses as well as bathing of larger animals.
During the tour, Blair showed several red dog houses that were made by another Eagle Scout, Clay Fuller, about a year ago. They are currently using one of them for a little dog to come out to get some quieter space away from the big dogs.
There are currently a few outside kennels under tarps and two horse stalls that are being used as temporary housing. They are not all full, but had to be used for a few dogs dropped off within the past week. An expansion project is underway to build an additional room onto the existing building so there is more space for the dogs.
There are about 25-30 dogs at any given time and they come and go frequently.
“Most of these animals, not just the dogs are coming to us and getting what they weren’t getting which is good, wholesome food and a nice warm bed. We have even rescued dogs chained up and living under a car where they are eating dead carcasses,” Blair described.
The Ohio Revised Code, ORC, is the set of rules that the Humane Society follows to be certain that the animals are all cared for appropriately and within legal requirements.
Being a non-profit organization, all records that can be requested, even financial records, are allowable upon request. Also being a non-profit, they can receive tax deductible donations or gifts-in-kind, which benefit the donor and the Humane Society.
Blair confirmed that they are governed by a local board of directors. She also compared how their operation was before the additional responsibilities associated with the county needs.
“What people don’t realize is that we have always taken all animals, not just dogs. And, that we take animals from cruelty, neglect, abused and abandoned situations. Now, we also take what the county was taking, the strays, owner turn-ins and running-at-large.
“Many of our dogs can’t be adopted out because they are still used as evidence in criminal cases. That’s why some animals stay here a long time. They are not just strays that can be adopted out after three days,” specified Blair.
She was thorough in explaining that the Humane Society does not euthanize just simply for being overcrowded. They try to make due with existing space or find other locations for the animals to go to temporarily.