A case of sticker shock has Toledo city council considering hiring its own dog warden.
City council members debated creating a city animal-control office for night and weekend hours, during a hearing of the public safety committee yesterday.
While council has debated the move for years, it was advanced yesterday in the wake of a $110,000 bill for services this year under the contract with Lucas County.
Councilwoman Wilma Brown, chairwoman of the committee, said legislation to pay the quarterly bills from the dog warden, up to $110,000 for the year, likely will be approved by council on Tuesday. Meanwhile, council staff has been asked to draft legislation establishing a city animal-control officer.
The contract with the Lucas County dog warden allows police to call deputy dog wardens after 4 p.m. to respond to complaints of stray, vicious, or injured dogs.
Capt. Ron Spann estimated police spend $88,000 a year waiting for an after-hours deputy to arrive and handle a dog. He said that police would refer such calls directly to a city animal control officer instead of being the first responder to the scene.
“What we're concerned about is not only the money, but the time spent dealing with these calls,” Captain Spann said. “We spend a lot of time out of service waiting for the deputy [dog warden] warden to show up.”
County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon said deputies respond to police as soon as they get the call. He said delays occur only if there is more than one call at the same time. Mr. Skeldon said one deputy is on call each night.
City officials said there were 766 after-hours calls for dog wardens last year, of which 120 were for injured dogs.
Captain Spann said animal-control officers respond only to complaints about dogs. Police must handle complaints about bats, raccoons, cats, birds, and other creatures.
Several council members said they support creating a city animal-control office. “We need to pay what we owe now, but I strongly encourage we move forward with taking a look at [hiring] an animal-control officer,” Councilwoman Betty Schultz said.
Earlier this week, a peeved Sandy Isenberg, chairman of the Lucas County board of commissioners, sent Toledo a letter demanding prompt payment of the dog warden contract. The letter appeared to be in reply to a city request for Mr. Skeldon to attend yesterday's hearing.
Mr. Skeldon was ordered by the commissioners not to attend the hearing because the county had not been told the purpose of the hearing, county Commissioner Harry Barlos said.
Told that the city might hire its own animal-control officer, he said, “Amen.”
“It's about time. If they feel they should look at their own animal-control officer, I think that's a good idea,” Mr. Barlos said.
The city's contract for the dog warden increased from $42,565 in 1994 to $95,730 in 1999. It dipped to $84,324 in 2000, but city officials expect it to increase again this year. Mr. Skeldon said the actual cost for 2001 probably would be less than the $110,000 budgeted.
Mr. Skeldon said the city will need two deputies to cover two night shifts, a van, some equipment, and training, to start its own program. He said police have access to a cage in the dog warden's facility to keep dogs overnight. He recommended maintaining the contract with the county, at the annual retaining fee of $8,300, as a backup.
The dog warden would continue to serve the city 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., as required by state law, he said.