Dead for a fine

Lucas County should not kill any healthy, nonvicious dog merely because its owner can’t afford the fines

Cheerio, a beagle mix, was killed last week by the Lucas County Dog Warden's office.
Cheerio, a beagle mix, was killed last week by the Lucas County Dog Warden's office.

By now, most people in Lucas County have heard the gruesome story of the death of a dog named Cheerio. By all accounts, Cheerio was a nice little dog that should not have been killed by the county dog warden’s office.

Especially for the reason he was killed: money. His owner didn’t have enough cash to bail him out.

Cheerio was brought in as a stray on July 18 to the county dog pound. His owner had bought a license, but it was not on the dog when it was found.

In Cheerio’s many days there, the fines and fees multiplied. The dog warden phoned the owner, she sent a letter, and the owner and her family came to the pound but could not pay all the fees.

Cheerio was put up for adoption, but because the dog guarded its food, it was labeled dangerous, which is absurd. The dog was far more afraid — rightly, as it turns out — than it was fearsome.

Either the dog warden’s office acted with tragic incompetence in this case, or the current warden is not as much of an improvement over her predecessor as many thought.

No healthy dog that is clearly not vicious should be killed. And no one’s beloved pet should be taken away and put down because the owner lacks money.

Surely fines that are owed can be paid off over time, or on a sliding scale based on ability to pay. Perhaps some fees could be waived or paid by a charitable account when the owner is indigent.

Lucas County’s dog-license fee, at $25 a year, is among the highest in the state. Cutting that fee would encourage more county residents, especially poor ones, to license their dogs.

But no dog should be killed because its owner cannot pay — unless only the well-to-do have a right to have beloved animal companions. Dog Warden Julie Lyle might explain where the extra effort was made by her office to keep a dog alive and return a pet to its family.

Never kill a healthy dog that is not vicious. Never kill a healthy dog because its owner is too poor to pay all its fines. This should not have happened, and it must not happen again.