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Dog warden: There's no dog killing controversy within Fulton County

An uproar in Lucas County over what Commissioner Ben Konop and other administrators consider an excessive number of unmerited dog euthanizations has led to the announced retirement of embattled Dog Warden Tom Skeldon.

His brother, Fulton County Dog Warden Pete Skeldon, said there's no controversy locally. Not only does his office maintain an acceptable 28 percent rate of euthanasia, but he also has administrative and public support.

"We'll have people complain when we have to go out and tranquilize a vicious dog. We don't have complaints about killing somebody's dog," he said.

The main differences between the two counties is Fulton County's more rural locality and the fact that "this isn't Toledo. Fifty percent of the dogs that come in here are not pit bulls," Skeldon said.

In Ohio it is illegal for county dog pounds to adopt out pit bulls due to their vicious reputation. A vicious dog is described as any dog that has bitten unprovoked, killed another dog or can be described as a pit bull or pit bull mix.

Of the sometimes nearly 1,000 animals the dog pound takes in each year, about 600 - or close to 65 percent - are strays, and about 400 of those find new homes. About 100 dogs taken in each year are a pit bull variety.

Between Jan. 3 and Oct. 24 this year, the county dog pound collected 728 dogs. Of those, 74 were reclaimed by their owners, 19 were sold or adopted out and 190 were claimed by Planned Pethood.

A total of 309 others were euthanized. They included vicious dogs, 97 dogs surrendered by owners who paid a $50 euthanization fee, ill and injured dogs and about 55 dogs brought from the Williams County dog pound to be cremated. About 75 of the dogs were pit bulls or pit bull mixes.

Of the 28 percent euthanized each year, 95 percent fall into one of those categories. The most recent euthanization occurred Oct. 29.

Skeldon said once an owner pays to have a dog euthanized it cannot by law be adopted.

Otherwise, "if the temperament on a dog is good ... it's not sick, it's not injured, we adopt them out," he said.

And there are many that qualify for adoption. People seem to think abandoning dogs in rural areas gives the animals a greater chance of survival or to be rescued quickly, Skeldon said.

A dog wearing a license will be returned to its owner. The dog pound is required by law to keep those without a license for three days before they can be adopted.

There have been cases in which the county dog pound kept strays for two or three months with the hope of adopting them out, Skeldon said. Planned Pethood can usually take them about 10 days after they're brought in.

"But something's got to happen somewhere down the line," Skeldon said. "Sometimes a decision has to be made after you've put forth a good effort to find it a home."

He said the euthanization process "is more humane than what hospitals do to people. (The dogs) feel nothing."

Still, the percentage of healthy dogs the county must eventually euthanize remains very small, he added. Most rural counties have fairly good numbers among dogs that are saved.

Planned Pethood, a rescue and adoption agency for pets begun in northwest Ohio 30 years ago, takes 150 to 250 dogs a year from the dog pound. Executive Director Nikki Morey said without their intervention many of those dogs would probably be euthanized.

"Without rescues their options are very limited," she said. "If you don't have somebody working aggressively marketing the dog, you're limiting its options by limiting its exposure. We have a great relationship with the Fulton County dog warden."

During his 15 years as dog warden, Skeldon has never received a complaint regarding the number of dogs euthanized. Now and again a county commissioner will relay a resident's complaint over how a situation was handled, he said. But the commissioners receive a weekly report on the dog pound's operation.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time we have done it correctly and by the law, without incident," Skeldon said. "They know that we don't kill because we like killing dogs. We'd much rather see them leave the building."

County Commissioner Dean Genter said no public complaints have been filed about unnecessary euthanizations.

"I don't think it's an issue here in Fulton County. If it was an issue, I would complain," he said.

He praised Skeldon's working relationship with Planned Pethood, saying, "Financially, we can only keep a good dog so long."