Changes coming to BCARL

ST. CLAIRSVILLE Changes continue for the Belmont County Animal Rescue League, which relieved Shelter Coordinator Diane Amend of her duties earlier this week by the board of directors. She had been hired months ago after issues were raised against the shelter online. The attention brought a tour from ACT-Ohio and subsequent recommendations, which the shelter has apparently followed.

The county will also take steps toward a new dog warden Thursday.

The BCARL board released a statement saying they have been faced with many challenges during the past year and are constantly striving to improve services for abused and neglected animals of Belmont County.

“To achieve this goal, reassessing and restructuring is an on-going process. We believe that working together with our communities is essential to the well-being of the animals; therefore, we would appreciate your continued support.”

Angela Hatfield, vice president of the board, would not elaborate further on the matter of Amend, but added that at this time, the staff currently in place will continue to run the shelter. She noted the improvements to the shelter building, including a room for families to become acquainted with potential pets. Hatfield donated the room in memory of Charlie Wilson and his rescue dog.

Hatfield said the board would work with the commissioners and that no further staff reductions are expected.

Commissioner Mark Thomas noted that the decision was undertaken by BCARL, not the commissioners, since Amend was their employee.

He added that the commissioners’ focus is on ensuring the animals are cared for and placed with good homes. He pointed out that under Ohio law, the commissioners are required to provide a facility to house abandoned and stray dogs and other animals.

The commissioners and BCARL are in the process of rewriting their contract, with attorneys from both sides working on the documentation for the past five months. It is expected to be signed by next month. Thomas said the commissioners will have greater control under the new agreement to prevent issues raised by the public from arising again.

The commissioners are also considering the appointment of a new dog warden, with the possibility of the sheriff or a sheriff’s deputy. Thomas said placing a member of law enforcement in the position may be more convenient in the event that search warrants need to be served in cases of abuse.

The sheriff of Fayette County will make a presentation to the commissioners Thursday in an extension of their Wednesday meeting. The initial presentation will be an executive session.

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com.