|Commissioners address dog warden change|
|Tuesday, May 07, 2013 4:25 PM|
By MELINDA KRICK • Progress Editor
PAULDING – Paulding County dog warden Georgia Dyson’s final day on the job will be June 30 and assistant dog warden Ken Huckabaa’s last day will be May 31. As of July 1, the dog warden’s office duties and dog shelter operations will be under the authority of the sheriff’s office.
The change is the result of a vote by county Commissioners Fred Pieper, Tony Zartman and Roy Klopfenstein on May 1.
A press release issued by the commissioners later that morning stated, “The commissioners are confident this change will promote efficiency and provide 24/7 service to the county residents.”
Dyson, Huckabaa and several supporters attended a press conference on Monday morning, May 6, which also was attended by Sheriff Jason Landers, media representatives and the commissioners.
Pieper, as chairman of the commissioners, started the session, which lasted for more than an hour. He said that the board was making the move “after months of consideration” to better serve the needs of the community safely and with 24/7 service. They felt the best option was to transfer the operation to the sheriff’s office, saying “respect comes with the (deputy’s) uniform.”
Also, they noted a deputy has the power to cite someone for disorderly conduct and “it’s important to citizens to have a quick response time.”
Nine other Ohio counties have the dog warden’s office under the sheriff’s department; none of them are in northwest Ohio.
Plans call for the sheriff to hire a full-time deputy to assume dog warden duties, probably weekdays during the day shift. A part-time deputy will be assistant dog warden on weekends.
Dyson won’t be eligible for the full-time office because her husband already works for the sheriff’s office and under state ethics law cannot supervise a spouse. Dyson, who currently is a reserve deputy, could apply for the part-time position, according to Sheriff Landers.
The sheriff posted internally for a current deputy to transfer into the dog warden position. If no one shows interest, he will hire from outside the department.
He said that after hours, the road deputies, if available, would have to respond to dog complaints. The dog warden would be called if necessary, but it would be overtime.
Dyson has had to answer as many as 30 calls in one day.
She has not had to euthanize a dog since last August. By her own admission, she spends “countless hours” at home, on her cell phone and on computer trying to find homes for dogs.
By state law, dogs that are picked up without tags must be kept at least 14 days; dogs without tags must be kept a minimum of 72 hours. During the press conference, no one was able to answer who will set policy for how long dogs will be kept after July 1. Landers admitted he’s not sure of what kind of resources the future dog warden will have available to pursue rescuing dogs. He said they may have to “resort to state law.”
Several of those present, including Kathy Habern and Sue Rhodes, expressed concern about continuing humane treatment of the dogs and seeing them rescued instead of euthanized.
Landers praised Dyson’s abilities at dog rescue acknowledged the importance of her work on behalf of the shelter. Dyson said she expects the sheriff’s office and commissioners to come to her with their questions. The sheriff was open to the idea of volunteers helping with rescues.
Discussions have not taken place yet on logistics and how exactly the change will take place.
The residents in attendance were persistent in questioning why the commissioners made their decision. Not only had no dogs been euthanized in the past nine months, but the office had stayed within its budget ($60,000); shelter calls are forwarded to her cell phone for response day or night; and she hired an assistant warden Jan. 1, when her budget finally allowed the expense.
Also, the commissioners didn’t do any cost analysis comparing current expenses versus the cost of having deputies handle the jobs.
“The sheriff’s office has enough to do,” commented Bob Duffey. “You’re not showing a cost savings. There’s no need to change what’s already working.”
The commissioners said that budgetary concerns are secondary in this situation, acknowledging that the cost may be the same or it may cost more. Their main concern, said Pieper, is serving the public.
They also noted that they had received “numerous” complaints, but would not comment on whether the complaints were directed at Dyson or were about response or service. “We will not comment on complaints because it’s a personnel issue,” Pieper said.
On further questioning, he said that the commissioners had tried to rectify the situation before making a decision. They began discussing alternatives in mid-February.
The commissioners feel the dog warden position needs daily supervision, which will come from the sheriff’s office. Currently, the board meets with Dyson once a week.
Pieper added that the commissioners had absolutely made their decision and will not change their minds.
“It’s not a decision reached lightly,” said Zartman. “It weighed heavily on our hearts. We’re not necessarily comfortable with the decision but we’re sure it’s the right decision.”
Click below to hear an audio clip from the beginning of the meeting.
Dog warden loses job
By NANCY WHITAKER • Progress Staff Writer
PAULDING – Paulding County Commissioners held a news conference on Monday to explain their decision to shift the dog wardens duties to the sheriff’s office. This is to become effective on July 1.
Paulding County dog warden Georgia Dyson, found out last Wednesday, May 1, about the transfer of duties and the subsequent loss of her position. She was told that it was for safety reasons.
This did not make any sense to her as she is a certified peace officer and a member of the sheriff’s office reserve as well. She is also an Afghan veteran and received extensive hand to hand combat training. So, it was quite puzzling to her as to why her safety was a big enough concern to warrant them to replace her with the sheriff’s office.
Dyson, who assumed the role of dog warden in December 2010 said, “I have worked endless hours to ensure that I didn’t have to put dogs down. I haven’t euthanized a dog since Aug. 21, 2012.
“Also since I took over I haven’t had to use any money from the general fund. I have had a carryover balance each year since I have been the chief dog warden.
“The dog shelter is funded by tags and license fees and by donations.”
Dyson said, “My job does not end at 4 p.m. I have the dog warden’s number forwarded to my cell phone after hours and I know they are getting round-the clock assistance.”
Dyson said that she would not be eligible to apply for the dog deputy duties as she is married to a deputy and they do not hire relatives.
However, it was disclosed that Dyson could apply for a part-time position that will be created by the sheriff’s office and it would cover weekends.
Meanwhile, assistant dog warden Ken Huckabaa, who was hired Jan. 1, will be losing his position as well.
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