PAULDING, Ohio — Dog Warden Georgia Dyson hasn’t killed a dog since August, 2012, but she soon will lose her job thanks to the county commissioners’ decision to shift the dog warden’s duties to the sheriff’s office on July 1.
Paulding is the first county in northwest Ohio to make such a shift. It joins nine other Ohio counties who have done so: Champaign, Shelby, Madison, Marion, Pike, Washington, Logan, Preble, and Fayette.
Unlike those counties, which have a humane society or other animal-sheltering group that takes dogs after the sheriff’s department picks them up, the Paulding County sheriff’s office will take over the county pound, which houses up to 12 dogs, Sheriff Jason Landers said. That will include all aspects of the dogs’ care, including cleaning kennels, he said.
Sheriff Landers has posted internally to see if any of the deputies wants to take on dog-warden duties. If one of his deputies applies, then he will advertise for a new deputy; if not, he plans to hire a deputy specifically for dog duties.
The county commissioners held a news conference on Monday in their chambers to explain why they are restructuring. Besides Mrs. Dyson, the newly hired assistant dog warden, Ken Huckabaa, also will lose his job, effective May 31.
“We are making this move after many months of consideration,” said Fred Pieper, the commissioners’ chairman.
The board hopes to “best serve the needs of the community” to ensure residents’ safety and to “give them 24/7 coverage,” Mr. Pieper said.
However, Sheriff Landers said that while citizens may call in problems around the clock, the deputy handling dog issues will work a day shift, so nonurgent issues will have to wait until he or she comes in to work. Mrs. Dyson said she has the dog warden’s phone forwarded to her personal cell phone after hours, so residents already are getting round-the-clock assistance.
“My day doesn’t end at 4 p.m.,” Mrs. Dyson said. “I think Sheriff Landers needs to know there is more to it than one deputy can handle.”
The change is not to save money, Mr. Pieper emphasized, as it may cost the county more money because a deputy’s salary likely will exceed the dog warden’s $31,085 annual pay, depending on experience. The base pay for Paulding County deputies ranges from $30,805 to $38,215, plus overtime.
One reason Mr. Pieper gave for making the change is that the commissioners believe the person handling the dog-warden duties needs daily supervision from the sheriff, instead of the weekly reports the dog warden gives the commissioners. Another reason is a concern for Mrs. Dyson’s safety, since there is “less respect given to a dog warden’s uniform compared to a deputy.”
“A deputy can cite someone for disorderly conduct if the need should arise,” Mr. Pieper said.
Mrs. Dyson would not be eligible to apply for the deputy position handling dog-warden duties if it goes unfilled internally because she is married to a current deputy, and the sheriff’s department doesn't hire employees’ relatives, Sheriff Landers said.
However, Mrs. Dyson could apply for a part-time position that will be created in the sheriff’s department to handle weekend dog-related calls, he said.
Several volunteers at the dog warden’s office, along with several other concerned county residents, attended the meeting to voice their displeasure over the impending shift.
Mr. Pieper said the plan was “not up for debate” and the commissioners “cannot take a public poll” every time they want to change something. The commissioners also are looking at moving the county Emergency Management Agency into the sheriff’s department.
Sheriff Landers said he hoped Mrs. Dyson’s record of transferring dogs to rescue groups and not euthanizing unclaimed animals will continue under his authority.
Ohio law requires dog wardens to hold stray, unlicensed dogs for three days and licensed dogs for 14 days before they are euthanized. Mrs. Dyson has not automatically killed dogs when their statutory time expired. Instead she has searched, with the help of several dedicated volunteers, for groups to take the dogs.
“The most important part of what Georgia has established is she is good at the rescue part of the mission,” Sheriff Landers said. “We want to keep in place what she has done. ... I believe there are dog lovers and animal lovers in our community who will help us to continue to do what she has been doing.”
Contact Tanya Irwin at: email@example.com, or 419-724-6066.