By Tim Cox
Mercer County Commissioners have agreed to make improvements at the county dog pound, bowing to pressure from local animal rights activists.
Commissioners and dog warden Tom Powell have come up with a plan to add more kennel space at the pound, located on Powell's rural Fort Recovery farm. Commissioners last week agreed to spend $1,600 for new kennels while Powell has agreed to pay for a huge concrete slab to expand kennel space.
Commissioners said they can pay for items that can be removed but cannot pay for a fixed asset, such as the concrete slab. Instead, commissioners and Powell will renegotiate the $100 monthly lease the county pays for use of his property.
The planned improvements come as good news to members of the Animal Protection League of Mercer County, who recently turned up the heat on commissioners to make changes at the pound. They were specifically motivated by a recent incident in which a yellow Labrador dog was severely injured and later was euthanized as a result of its injuries.
Group members say dogs need to be separated by temperament, breed, sex or if they are injured. The extra kennels should accomplish that, commissioners said. Protection league member Katheryn Moorman briefly cared for the injured dog before it succumbed to its injuries. She named the affectionate dog "Dougie."
We want to advocate for improvements at the pound and to let people know there are beautiful, healthy dogs there," Moorman said. "Maybe we can save the next Dougie."
League members work closely with Powell to "rescue" dogs from the pound and place them in foster homes until someone can be found to permanently adopt them.
Commissioners say they appreciate the group's efforts but cannot provide all the funding the group wants to start a Humane Society.
"We do appreciate the good working relationship that exists," Commissioner Jim Zehringer said. "The focus has to be on getting people to license their dogs. We have to educate the public."
Licensed dogs picked up by Powell can be held for up to 14 days and officials make every effort to reunite lost dogs with their owners, commissioners said. Unlicensed dogs can be euthanized after only three days.
Commissioners could increase the dog license fee to generate more money for improvements at the pound, but price increases generally lead to fewer people buying the licenses. Dog licenses are required by law, but county officials have no effective way to enforce the law.
Protection league member Annie Saintignon said citizens can help by letting county commissioners know they support improvements at the pound. The public also can help by adopting a dog through the protection league, she said.
Adoption fees generally run $75 to $200. For that, the pet owner gets an animal rescued from the pound that has had veterinary care and is spayed or neutered. All adopted dogs also are vaccinated and checked for heartworm.
The league also screens each prospective adoptive home to make sure the family and the dog are a good fit.
Adoptions can be arranged through the group's Web site at www.aplmercer.com.
Commissioner Jerry Laffin said he hopes the planned improvements will be well-received and can "correct the past." But he also noted that Powell has a difficult job running a one-man operation and essentially is on call 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Moorman said she would like the commissioners to visit surrounding counties to view dog pound facilities in other places.
"It could give the dogs an extra chance if they would at least look into taking those extra steps," Moorman said.
Saintignon said the best-case scenario is for the county to have a Humane Society that could handle the dog warden's duties. The group is working on fund-raising for such a venture but it is a slow process because the group has other bills to pay, such as food, vet care and other costs associated with running their operation.