MARYSVILLE, Ohio — A new animal cruelty task force in Ohio is intended to help overburdened humane societies respond to calls of animal neglect and abuse.
The executive director of the Union County Humane Society in western Ohio says he established the Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio to handle humane-agent calls in counties that need help.
Director Steffen Baldwin says a major problem in rural Ohio is finding humane society agents who have time to respond to animal cruelty and neglect complaints and that have the resources to care for the animals once they are seized. He says it is also difficult to find agents who have the expertise to work with authorities to prosecute owners who break the law.
Baldwin says he will resign as director of the humane society next month to devote his time to the nonprofit task force, The Columbus Dispatch (http://shar.es/8Dynd) reported.
“Rural Ohio animal cruelty is such a different ballgame,” Baldwin said. “It’s not just John Wayne busting down doors and seizing dogs in cases with no food, water or shelter. It’s much more complicated than that in farming communities.”
Baldwin and his new board of directors are trying to raise $120,000 for their 2014 budget. The task force is recruiting people it will pay to train and then pay to work at no cost to a local humane society.
Humane societies in Champaign and Hardin counties have signed contracts, and Baldwin says he will continue to provide services in Union County, where he is a licensed humane agent. He has also talked to humane societies in other counties.
Ohio law says each county can have a humane agent, but does not require one. A humane agent is certified through training at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy and appointed by a probate judge or a mayor.
Current state law requires humane agents to live in the counties in which they serve. But Baldwin says pending legislation would change that, and make sharing resources much easier.
Humane societies in counties such as Licking and Delaware have multiple agents, but there is generally more work than they can handle and not enough money, said Misty Bay, humane-services and marketing manager for the Humane Society of Delaware County.
Some rural communities can’t afford to have any agents at all, said Angela Van Hoose, secretary of the Champaign County Humane Association. That county is among at least a dozen rural Ohio counties that haven’t had a humane agent for years.
“We get calls all the time of things we just can’t go out on to investigate,” Van Hoose said.
Law-enforcement agencies also can investigate and prosecute animal neglect and cruelty cases, but officials in the rural counties agree that other crimes often take precedence.