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Saturday, December 27, 2014
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Published: Friday, 8/1/2014

Van Wert County dog warden fired

Prosecutors could press criminal charges

BY ALEXANDRA MESTER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

VAN WERT — The Van Wert County dog warden was fired Thursday while an investigation into conditions at the county dog shelter continues.

County commissioners fired Rich Strunkenburg for failure to supply adequate food and water, failure to adequately clean the kennel and cage areas, failure to follow proper procedure in handling dead animals, and failure to provide adequate care and attention to the animals.

Mr. Strunkenburg, who was also the county’s sole humane agent, had been placed on paid administrative leave last week after the sheriff’s office received a complaint July 20 and opened the investigation.

Specific details of the conditions inside the shelter have not been released, but were declared “unacceptable.” Sheriff Thomas Riggenbach sent a report to the commissioners Thursday, which they reviewed before firing Mr. Strunkenburg.

The sheriff also sent a report to the county prosecutor and Mr. Strunkenburg could face criminal charges.

Todd Wolfrum, chairman of the county commissioners, said Mr. Strunkenberg attended the disciplinary hearing Tuesday, but “basically remained silent.”

A phone number for Mr. Strunkenburg could not be located.

A sheriff’s deputy who was formerly a part-time county dog warden has been temporarily assigned to manage the shelter, which was closed last week while it was brought up to acceptable conditions. He also will handle the humane agent duties.

“Things are going well,” Sheriff Riggenbach said. “We’re continuing to provide services. We’re receiving animals, adopting them out. We’re making progress on things that need to be taken care of. I’m pleased with what we've been able to get done.”

While the dog warden is an employee of the commissioners, the office was placed under the sheriff’s supervision a year ago to address concerns about responsiveness to calls. The Van Wert County Humane Society provides the shelter space and the home next door in which Mr. Strunkenburg lives at no cost.

The three groups are discussing a reorganization of the dog warden’s office. They expect better oversight and communication to prevent future problems. They also plan to create a volunteer program, after learning that residents who tried to volunteer have been turned away.

“All three of us should have had some responsibility to check on things at the shelter, and all three of us probably thought the others were taking care of it,” Mr. Wolfrum said.



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