Wood County Dog Shelter

Boy gives his heart and his birthday presents to the dogs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News For the third year in a row, Drake Stearns’ birthday present list has included unlikely items like dog food, leashes, blankets, bowls and dog toys. When he and his mom, Chris Stearns, dropped off the birthday presents to the Wood County Dog Shelter recently, it took several trips to deliver the loot. There was nearly 100 pounds of dog food (including some mistakenly purchased cat food.) “We’ll mix it in,” Wood County Dog Warden Andrew Snyder said. The dogs will never know the difference, he said. There were 15 boxes and bags of Milk Bone treats, some Pup-peroni, some peanut butter stuffed treats, and bags of squeaky dog toys, soft blankets, and other items. “I think the dogs deserve a birthday, too,” said Drake, who just turned 10. Drake’s tradition of sending out birthday invitations listing dog treats for his gift ideas, seems to have caught on. A classmate of his at Elmwood, Ryken Zeigler, also dedicated his birthday gifts to the dog shelter this year. “You’re a trendsetter,” Snyder told Drake. Drake has his own little pet menagerie at home – with two dogs, two cats, one tortoise and one hamster. One of this dogs (Pawsy) came from the county dog shelter, the other (Puggles) from Santa. Drake can’t exactly pinpoint what it is about dogs that he loves so much – other than “everything.” His mom admits to being an enabler for Drake’s love of animals. An employee at Wood Haven, she happened to stop by the neighboring dog shelter one day. “I didn’t want a dog,” Chris Stearns said. But then she saw the little dog looking longingly at her. “She was in the very last kennel, shivering, looking up at me,” she said. So Stearns brought Drake over to see what he thought of the dog. “They sat down on the floor, and Drake pulled on her ears, and she just sat there,” Stearns said. That was six years ago. This year, as Drake dropped off his birthday stash, he got to spend some time with Chance, a newer resident at the dog shelter. It wasn’t long before Drake was covered in slobber, and Chance was making all kinds of happy dog noises. “He’s like a squeaky door,” Drake said. “I don’t want to leave.” Snyder presented Drake with a certificate of appreciation for making the dogs the recipients of his birthday gifts. “What he does is very impressive, and now he’s got a following,” Snyder said. “We really appreciate all you do for us. There are going to be some happy dogs.” Not to mention a happy boy, covered in slobber.


Wood County Dog Shelter adds creature comforts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As big dogs barked all around him, “Wags” the puppy sat in his air-conditioned kennel, with a stuffed animal, listening to a symphony by Joseph Martin Kraus piped in on NPR. Wags and his mom, Onyx, ended up at the Wood County Dog Shelter recently when their owner started having health problems as she traveled from Detroit south on Interstate 75. While an ambulance took their human to the hospital, a dog shelter employee came to pick up Wags and Onyx. On Tuesday, the Wood County Commissioners toured the county dog shelter where they visited Wags and the five other dogs residing in the kennels – two pit bull mixes, two rottweiler mixes and one scruffy-looking terrier named Gizmo. Wood County Chief Dog Warden Andrew Snyder showed the commissioners some of the improvements at the shelter – air conditioning in one room of kennels for the dogs, an improved sound system so the dogs hear music and voices throughout the day, and new beds. Shelter staff is also making an effort to give the dogs time in the outdoor pens six days a week. The pens have plastic wading pools full of water, so the dogs have plenty to drink or can take a dip if they are hot. The smaller pens have covers over them. Snyder is hoping the larger outdoor pens will soon have tops also, since Max the dog quickly scaled the fence last week. “He came right up to the door and sat,” till shelter staff let him in, Snyder said. The improvements at the dog shelter have not gone unnoticed by humans either. It was only a couple months ago, when a group called Wood County Canine Alliance held a rally in Bowling Green, demanding better conditions at the county dog shelter. Some of those protesters are now volunteering at the dog shelter, Snyder said. “We really appreciate that,” he said. Connie Donald, of the Wood County Canine Alliance, said she has seen improvements. “Oh my gosh, yes,” Donald said. “Ever since that rally. All that noise was worth it.” The dogs are going outside more, and fewer of them are being euthanized. “The dogs are happier,” she said. Last year, the county dog shelter impounded 426 dogs, compared to 297 so far this year. The euthanasia rate last year was 14.3 percent, compared to 3.1 percent so far this year. Donald would still like to see the main kennel area of the shelter air-conditioned. But Snyder pointed out that if all the dogs don’t fit in the air-conditioned kennel room, they are rotated in and out. Some of the dogs are brought into the office area as well. “The puppy has spent more time there, than in the kennels,” Snyder said of Wags. The dog shelter also has large fans that keep the air moving, he said. “Our facility is pretty nice,” he said. Snyder also noted air conditioning is expensive. “We have some schools that don’t have air conditioning,” he said. “These dogs are used to being outside.” The dog warden also showed the county commissioners the new sign in front of the dog shelter, to help people find the site located in the back of the county’s East Gypsy Lane complex. A new sign was also placed at the Dunbridge Road entrance to the complex. Next to the dog shelter is the county dog park, where improvements are being planned to fix poor drainage and fix entry-exit issues. The dog park currently has 97 members, who pay $40 for a year membership and $30…


Dog warden reports on changes at county dog shelter

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County dog warden is not like an old dog that can’t be taught new tricks. Chief Dog Warden Andrew Snyder said Tuesday morning that he is always looking for ways to improve operations at the county dog shelter. Those changes include more visible signage for the shelter, more dog license sales, increased outdoor exercise for the dogs, improvements to the dog park, decreases in dogs euthanized, and increased efforts to find homes for impounded dogs. Last Friday, approximately 50 protesters rallied in downtown Bowling Green to protest dogs being euthanized at the Wood County Dog Shelter. Snyder reported to the county commissioners Tuesday that the dog shelter’s euthanasia rate is 8 percent – far lower than the 40 percent rate a decade ago. Of the 184 dogs impounded so far this year, 81 were reclaimed by their owners, 45 were adopted by new owners, 35 were taken in by rescue organizations, and 15 were euthanized. “I think our adoption statistics show we have a really good relationship with our rescues,” he said. Commissioner Doris Herringshaw asked if some dog owners surrender their dangerous dogs to the shelter for euthanasia. “Do they bring them to you with that in mind?” Snyder said that does occur, and added that some owners drop off older ill dogs. On Monday, the shelter took in four new dogs, he said. One was a pit bull whose owner has been incarcerated, and the family cannot take in the dog because it is aggressive toward other dogs. “We take in a dog like that and do our best to find that dog a home,” Snyder said. But fewer rescue groups are available to take in such dogs. “It’s a never ending process to try to find a home for these dogs.” Snyder reported on some improvements to the commissioners, such as: Revisions to a kennel worker’s hours now allow the dogs to get outdoor exercise time six days a week. A new, more visible sign will be erected at the dog shelter, located in the county complex off East Gypsy Lane Road. Other signage options are being considered at an entrance to the complex. Workers have made more door-to-door checks for dog licenses, which should result in more license sales this year. More “dangerous” dog licenses have been purchased, as required by state law. “So we’re seeing more compliance there,” Snyder said. Changes are also planned at the county dog park, located next to the dog shelter. The three padlocked entrances to the dog park will be replaced with one keypad entrance. That should make it more convenient for members, and more likely they will lock it when leaving. Drainage issues will be fixed, and a water cooler system will be installed, Snyder said. Running water to the park was too expensive, he added. After the meeting with the commissioners, Snyder talked about some of the reasons possibly causing the lower number of dogs being impounded at the shelter. In 2005, there were more than 800 dogs taken in. Last year, that number was just over 400. More dogs are now being licensed, so they are immediately returned to their owners instead of having to go to the dog shelter, he said. Also, there has been an increase in public awareness about pet owner responsibilities and the importance of adopting from shelters, thanks to several TV shows that touch on the topic. And social media is used by several people to find lost pets. Snyder said he is willing to consider policy changes at the dog shelter,…


‘Every Dog Matters’ rally critical of county dog warden

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   More than 50 people carrying signs and holding leashes marched Friday evening in Bowling Green to profess their love of dogs and protest euthanasia at the Wood County Dog Shelter. Dwight Stinehart, of Portage, brought his three-legged boxer, Shrek, to the “Every Dog Matters” rally in the Wooster Green. The dog shelter is too quick to euthanize, he said. “We just want to raise awareness,” Connie Donald, of the Wood County Canine Alliance, said as she held a sign saying “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” “Things have been done the same way there for 20 years,” Donald said of the county dog shelter operation. The primary objection of the Canine Alliance members is that dogs are mislabeled as being aggressive and are needlessly euthanized. “We don’t think every dog can be saved,” Donald said. But she does think the county can do better. Last year, 74 dogs were euthanized at the Wood County Dog Shelter. That’s too many, according to members of the Canine Alliance. But according to statistics from the dog shelter, the percentages of dogs euthanized at the shelter have been dropping over the last decade. More than 40 percent of the dogs brought into the shelter in 2009 were euthanized. When Andrew Snyder took over as chief dog warden in 2001, nearly a quarter of the dogs brought to the shelter were euthanized. The number has been gradually dropping, hitting a low of 9.3 percent so far this year, Snyder said. Efforts have increased to return the dogs to their owners (47 percent), adopt them out to new homes (25 percent) and transfer them to rescue groups (19 percent). But Donald questioned those numbers, suggesting that Snyder isn’t counting the dogs declared “unadoptable” in the euthanized tally. Consequently, the protest signs calling Snyder the “Death Warden,” and stating “Stop killing our dogs,” “Silence = Death” and “Commissioners listen to your voters.” Members of the Canine Alliance believe that the evaluations conducted on dogs at the shelter are not fair, and do not take into account the stress the dogs are under in the facility. The dogs deserve enrichment, outdoor time and attention. “They are not meeting the emotional needs,” Donald said. “You can’t just get a dog and expect it to be perfect.” Karen Ash said shelter workers need more empathy for the dogs. “We want to give all the dogs a chance,” she said. Ash also said the shelter records should be open to the public. The public deserves to know how dogs are euthanized, and exactly how they are evaluated. “This is a taxpayer funded facility,” Ash said. Judging the dogs too harshly is resulting in needless euthanasia, she said. “It boils down to animal abuse,” Ash said. “It’s a stain on the community.” Another protester, Lori Hanway, said the dogs need to be given more time to adjust at the shelter before they go through behavioral evaluations. “I just think the dogs need to be considered more important,” Hanway said. “We’re animal lovers,” Happy Brooks said. “I think there’s a place for every dog.” But county officials don’t think the dog shelter can be that place or can find a home for every dog. Last month, Snyder demonstrated to the county commissioners the behavioral evaluations that are done with each dog to determine if they are safe to be adopted out. The vast majority of the dogs are found to be adoptable. “They don’t euthanize dogs on a whim,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said earlier this week. “I have every confidence in…


Dogs put to the test before deemed safe for adoption

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   All 120 pounds of Winston with his wagging tail showed up in the Wood County Commissioners’ hearing room on Tuesday. The mastiff mix – who was adopted from the Wood County Dog Shelter – was used to help exhibit the testing that dogs go through before they are deemed safe to be adopted out from the shelter. “If we have dogs with unsafe behaviors, we are not going to place them,” Wood County Dog Warden Andrew Snyder said to the county commissioners. “We are making decisions based on the best interest of the public and best interest of the dogs.” Snyder talked about Safety Assessment for Evaluating Re-homing tests intended to judge dog behavior. “This assessment was designed to identify behavior modification before adoption,” he said. However, the dog shelter does not have the adequate time or staff to perform the detailed two-person videotaped evaluations, he said. “It’s really not a function we are equipped to carry out,” Snyder told the commissioners. So the Wood County Dog Shelter is using its own version of the behavior evaluations. According to Snyder, dog shelters in Lucas and Hancock counties also do modified versions, while dog shelters in Seneca, Sandusky, Henry and Ottawa counties have no formal evaluations. But a canine advocate group called Wood County Canine Alliance believes some dogs at the local shelter are unfairly labeled as dangerous and doomed to euthanasia. Snyder defended the evaluations as a public service. With the help of Winston and his owner, deputy dog warden Nora Davis, Snyder showed the county commissioners how dogs are assessed. Observation of the dog’s body language can tell a lot, he said. Is the dog barking in a happy or aggressive manner, cowering in the back of a kennel, pacing, acting dominant or submissive, avoiding eye contact? Are the ears back, hair raised, tail wagging? “Dogs are very, very good at reading people,” Snyder said. “As we’re assessing them, they are assessing us.” Then there are the tests. Will the dog tolerate having its feet touched or its ears tugged? Will it allow a person to push or restrain it in a hug? The staff uses a fake arm on a stick to see if the dog will allow its food bowl to be moved around. There are also tests to see how a dog behaves around other dogs. Snyder recognizes the evaluations are not perfect. “We are evaluating dogs based on a single point in time,” and when being housed in a dog kennel, that point in time is not ideal, he said. “It’s a stressful environment. Dogs certainly act different there than they will act in a home environment,” he said. “All evaluations to a certain extent are subjective,” Snyder said. Sometimes the shelter staff encounters a dog that behaves well – until a trigger occurs. Snyder told of a friendly dog whose behavior changed when it was grabbed by the collar. “That dog would become unbelievably aggressive, like a light switch was flipped,” he said. “We don’t always know exactly what the trigger is.” Some dog advocates have suggested that dogs be ranked as less dangerous if their bites tend to be less severe. “That’s a flawed system as well,” Snyder said. Last year, Wood County recorded 155 dog bites. “We see a lot of gruesome injuries caused by dogs.” Others have suggested that dogs who don’t like children or men, be placed with households without those triggers. But that only works if the dog is never in contact with children, men or whatever the trigger may be….


Citizens seek creature comforts at county dog shelter

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Connie Donald and Dolores Black are looking out for homeless residents of Wood County – the four-legged ones. The two women met with Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw and Administrator Andrew Kalmar earlier this week to see how the lives of dogs at the county dog shelter could be improved – even if for just a brief period. “I think as a nation we need to be more kind to the less fortunate,” and that includes dogs, Donald said. The women had some success in their quest. One of their main concerns was that the Wood County Dog Shelter is difficult for people to locate. The shelter is in a small nondescript building in the back section of the county’s East Gypsy Lane Complex. The signage at the complex entrance is too small, they told Herringshaw and Kalmar. “They feel that our signage to direct people to the dog shelter isn’t enough,” Kalmar said. “People get lost. A lot of people think the Wood County Dog Shelter and Wood County Humane Society are the same thing,” Donald said. The county officials agreed that the signage could be improved – perhaps even including the happy cartoonish dog figure that now adorns the dog shelter vans. “I think that’s doable,” Kalmar said. But the other requests were not met with the same enthusiasm. Donald and Black suggested that the county dog shelter adopt the same spay-neuter policy that some other shelters have to fix dogs prior to adopting them out. The county currently charges $14 for a dog license when someone adopts a dog from the shelter. The new owner is then given a $75 gift certificate to use for spaying or neutering their dog. “They want to spay and neuter them before they ever go out the door,” Kalmar said. “We think the person adopting the dog should take the responsibility.” Donald said only about 30 percent of the new owners use the certificates and get their new dogs fixed. “I think we should spay and neuter, and vaccinate before they leave,” she said. “If we stop having puppies, we can stop killing them.” If the canines at the dog shelter were spayed and neutered, they would then be able to use the outdoor dog park which is located next to the county dog shelter. Donald and Black also asked about the $82,000 bequeathed to the dog shelter for the health and betterment of the dogs, by local resident Dorothy Stokes. “Some people have the view that now that you have a lot of money, you should spend it,” Kalmar said. The county had air conditioning installed in the small intake room for dogs, but not for the main kennel area due to the expense. “If they are reasonable suggestions, we can do it,” Kalmar said. Donald and Black asked if a foundation could be established for residents who want to bequest money for the shelter, so more interest could be earned on the donations. Kalmar said he would check with the county prosecutor’s office on setting up a trust. The women pointed out some inexpensive changes that could make life more pleasant for the dogs during their stays at the shelter. When the dogs come there, they are lost and afraid, Donald said. Small additions like a pheromone spray or music can make the dogs more relaxed and less likely to bark continuously, she explained. Donald also said it would be nice to put “treat buckets” on each kennel door, so when prospective owners check out a dog, they can entice it…