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Published: Friday, 1/22/2010

Dog days of January

IT'S BEEN an active - and mostly positive - week for dogs in Lucas County, with progress made toward saving puppies and some of Toledo's "vicious dog" laws declared unconstitutional. But the circumstances surrounding the hiring of Dr. Roger Spiess as veterinarian for the county dog warden were less than desirable.

The Lucas County commissioners' decision to allow "pit bull" puppies to be adopted rather than warehoused and later killed was welcome movement closer to the ultimate goal of finding homes for all savable dogs, regardless of breed.

The commissioners' unanimous vote on the topic was heartening as well. It suggests that Commissioners Tina Skeldon Wozniak (who proposed the policy change) and Pete Gerken either are coming around to Commissioner Ben Konop's point of view or are finally listening to residents who have been clamoring for changes in the county dog warden's policies on euthanasia and adoption.

For now, all healthy puppies, no matter what their breed, will be transferred to the Toledo Area Humane Society, which willingly accepted responsibility for seeing that the dogs are adopted. Once a replacement is found for Dog Warden Tom Skeldon, whose outdated approach led to the needless deaths of thousands of dogs through the years, the entire operation of the dog warden's office can be reviewed and more humane policies appropriate for the 21st century put in place.

Also encouraging was Toledo Municipal Court Judge Michael Goulding's ruling this week declaring unconstitutional city ordinances that limit owners of "pit bulls" to only one dog, require that all "pit bulls" be muzzled in public, and lump "pit bull" mixed breeds with purebred dogs. It's to be hoped this will encourage Toledo City Council to act quickly on a proposal to re-examine city laws on dangerous dogs.

On the veterinarian front, Mr. Konop was correct to ask that the part-time position be reopened. Acknowledging that the job search was poorly handled - nine local vets were picked as candidates at random from the telephone book and the Humane Society was arbitrarily eliminated from consideration without being contacted - is not a negative reflection on Dr. Spiess, who was given the job. Instead, it's a critique of the dog warden, who should have better administrative skills, and the commissioners, who should have kept better tabs on the process.

That critique, however, is more than offset by positive canine news at the city and county levels.

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