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Published: 4/21/2010

Death sentence for dogs

PETE Gerken's argument that giving policy-making authority to Dog Warden Julie Lyle would mean the Lucas County commissioners were "shrugging off" their responsibility would be laughable if it did not have such dire consequences for dozens, perhaps scores, of dogs.

The commissioners voted yesterday not to allow Ms. Lyle to set policies that might lower the county pound's kill rate and increase the number of dogs adopted into good homes.

Yet for years they had no trouble granting the former dog warden, Tom Skeldon, a free rein to kill as many dogs as he could. They did not quibble when Mr. Skeldon targeted "pit bulls" for extinction. They didn't question the county pound's kill rate, which year after year was among the highest in the state.

But then, Commissioners Gerken and Tina Skeldon-Wozniak agree with the catch-and-kill mentality that guided the county dog warden's office for more than two decades. They disagree with policies that would eliminate vicious dogs of any breed, while finding homes for good dogs of every breed.

And so they choose to ignore the animal welfare expert many thought was hired to turn the county dog warden's office into a model for the nation.

The two commissioners could have imposed a moratorium on euthanasia at the pound while policies are evaluated.

They did not, and that conscious decision to do nothing condemns to death innocent animals, including "Amos," a gentle "pit bull" featured in The Blade.

Indeed, Mr. Gerken sounded nostalgic for the Skeldon era. Then - and now, unless changes are made - dogs died by the hundreds and exorbitant fees and fines made certain that lower-income county residents would neither license their pets nor claim them if they were caught running free, thus ensuring a ready supply of animals to destroy.

If Mr. Gerken and Ms. Wozniak continue stubbornly to ignore the desire of county residents to modernize and humanize the dog warden's office, their fellow Democrats may suffer.

Americans across the nation are angry at politicians who don't listen to their concerns or act on their desires. The Tea Party movement is merely the most vocal manifestation of that voter displeasure.

Mr. Gerken and Ms. Wozniak may feel safe because they don't have to run for re-election until 2012. But their intransigence and insensitivity will resonate with dog owners throughout the county as other Democrats seek votes in November's general election.



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