CADIZ - The plight of dogs being housed at the Harrison County Dog Pound during the cold winter weather with frostbite and Parvo problems reportedly arising drew the attention of some Hollywood celebrities through Facebook, resulting in a rescue involving all the remaining dogs in the facility.
The story that began when the Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals sued the county for substandard conditions may have come to a conclusion Wednesday afternoon as the result of several county residents' efforts.
Cadiz resident Stacy Skinner posted photos she had taken of the dogs at the county pound on her Facebook page along with a plea for help a week ago. "It just spread like wildfire," said Skinner as she helped unload the rescued animals at the New Horizon Animal Hospital in St. Clairsville.
T-L Photo/MIKE PALMER
CADIZ resident Stacy Skinner, left, helps Jay Weiner of the The Gentle Barn foundation of Santa Clara, Calif., take a rescued dog, “Miss Waggs,” into the New Horizon Animal Hospital in St. Clairsville. See imagesat cu.timesleaderonline.com
The plea was noticed by Alyssa Milano who brought it to the attention of Ellen Degeneres who, in turn, contacted Ellie and Jay Weiner of the The Gentle Barn foundation in Santa Clara, Calif.
Jay Weiner said Gentle Barn received more than 10,000 complaints about the conditions at the pound, prompting him to take an overnight flight flight into Pittsburgh where he found that the process to adopt the dogs had began at Wednesday's meeting of the Harrison County Board of Commissioners.
A crowd of media was on hand as animal rights activists packed the meeting room in the courthouse in hopes of addressing the commissioners with their concerns about the conditions at the dog pound. The group spokesperson was Robin McClelland of the Appalachian Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, along with Harrison County Humane Society Officer Darla Smith.
The group was not permitted to address the board as Harrison County Commissioner Barbara Pincola explained that rules require any persons wishing to talk during the official meeting to meet the requirement of requesting to be placed on the agenda a minimum of nine days prior to the date.
Pincola issued a statement from commissioners, addressing the issues at the dog pound and admonished persons on Facebook for what she deemed unfounded attacks on the commissioners and for making her personal cell phone number available in the postings.
"We are a dog pound, not an animal shelter," Pincola said. "The shelter is required to hold stray dogs and cats for a minimum of 72 hours for owners to claim. After that, the dog is made available for adoption."
Harrison County Commissioner Mike Vinka added that the pound only euthanizes dogs if they are sick and that the pound has had to do so only four times this year.
Vinka added that he had inspected the facilities Tuesday accompanied by a veterinarian, and he found the conditions to be acceptable by legal standards.
Following the meeting, the Harrison County Sheriff's Office asked the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation to investigate complaints at the county dog pound. Commissioners were quick to act as they met following the meeting and decided to place Harrison County Dog Warden Chris McMullion on unpaid suspension, effective immediately, and scheduling a hearing next week to discuss her possible termination.
In the meantime, Weiner rented a van in Wheeling and went to the New Horizon Animal Hospital to pick up crates to transport the animals from the pound.
"We were told by a lot of people that there were deplorable conditions here for dogs," said Jay Weiner. "What is happening over there is a real mark on how the officials see their facility."
McClelland said the animals at the pound were suffering, noting that three animals had been relocated prior to Wednesday's actions.
"Clearly the county is incapable of caring for these creatures," she said before adding that "substandard conditions had caused one dog to be taken due to frostbite on its belly and another female with a puppy had been brought to New Horizons the day before with severe internal bleeding due to hookworm infestation.
"One of the dogs has tested positive for Parvo, one will have to have an eye removed, "said Weiner, who rescued six dogs from the facility including Miss Waggs, a Rottweiler that has been at the facility in excess of one year.
"In addition to these dogs. a Lab is in the Cadiz Animal Hospital and two other dogs from the shelter are at Oak Park, a veterinary clinic in Dover.
"Each of these animals will be spayed or neutered," Weiner added, saying that it was required by law in California for all adopted animals, but not in Ohio. The question I want to pose is: 'If your intent is to control the animal population, then why would you take in dogs and not spay or neuter them before adopting them back out into the general populous?'
"The veterinarians and staff here are going to check each of these dogs," said Weiner, adding that Parvo is a highly contagious disease for canines. "They will be taken care of medically first and then we will work with them to evaluate them all emotionally.
"Our goal is to find them all homes locally," Weiner said, noting that he had already had nearly 100 inquiries from persons living within two hours of St. Clairsville. "We have volunteers all over the area and are very widely read on Facebook; these people are collecting donations to help fund the recovery effort which could be in excess of $10,000.
"As always, we will do a home check on all of the adoption applicants," Weiner said.
"Our goal is to prevent further animals from entering the shelter," said McClelland. "It needs to be taken away from the county."
The Guardians of Rescue organization out of New York City has contacted McClelland and asked that the AOSPCA send a formal request to build a shelter to serve the needs of the local area. McClelland would not say where the facility would be located, only that it would serve Harrison and surrounding counties.
Interim dog warden Tina DeWalt will be handling the duties during the suspension in Harrison County, and the dog pound will remain open to the public.
This news concerned McClelland and Weiner who said that she may not be properly qualified with one of them commenting, "When we were loading the animals today, she had no idea how to put a choke chain on a dog."
McClelland was informed that she has been placed on the agenda for next week's meeting of commissioners.
Operation Warm 'N' Cozy from New Philadelphia also rescued two of the dogs, a mother pit bull and her 8-week old pup. A relatively new shelter, owner Julie Tripodi said the shelter made room among its 17 dogs for the pair. More information can be found at www.operationwarmncozy.com
Palmer can be reached at email@example.com.