Toledo's First Dog gets second chance

11/21/2007
BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Toledo-s-First-Dog-gets-second-chance


• Yesterday morning: Government Center s manager told Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, left, that he could no longer bring his dog, Scout, to work.
• Yesterday afternoon: The building s owner said Scout could go to work with the mayor today while the two parties attempt to reach an agreement.
• Health benefit? Building officials say the mayor has told them he needs the dog for stress reduction. The mayor s spokesman said yesterday that is a private matter.

The Blade/Jetta Fraser

<br>
• Yesterday morning:
Government Center s manager told Mayor Carty Finkbeiner,
left, that he could no longer bring his dog, Scout, to work.
<br>
• Yesterday afternoon:
The building s owner said Scout
could go to work with the mayor today while the two parties
attempt to reach an agreement.
<br>
• Health benefit? Building officials say the mayor has told
them he needs the dog for stress reduction. The mayor s spokesman said yesterday that is a private matter.
<br> &amp;#149; Yesterday morning: Government Center s manager told Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, left, that he could no longer bring his dog, Scout, to work. <br> &amp;#149; Yesterday afternoon: The building s owner said Scout could go to work with the mayor today while the two parties attempt to reach an agreement. <br> &amp;#149; Health benefit? Building officials say the mayor has told them he needs the dog for stress reduction. The mayor s spokesman said yesterday that is a private matter.

After hours of suspense over his future as the pet of the 22nd floor, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner s dog Scout won a reprieve yesterday.

In the morning, Michael Sullivan, manager of the Government Center, notified Mayor Finkbeiner that tenants in the state-owned building are not permitted to take their pets to work with them.

In the letter, Mr. Sullivan asked Mr. Finkbeiner to immediately refrain from bringing Scout to work. He cited the safety and well-being of the 1,200 other people working in the building for barring pets.

But by the end of the workday, the Ohio Building Authority, which owns Government Center, agreed to allow Scout to enter the building today while an agreement resolving the dispute is hashed out, said Robert Reinbolt, the mayor s chief of staff.

We expect a resolution satisfactory to all parties involved, Mr. Reinbolt said.

He said it did not open the door to everyone in the building bringing a pet to work because there are specific conditions that apply in Scout s case. He would not detail those conditions.

Mark Haberman, the assistant director of the Ohio Building Authority in Columbus, said the agency sent the letter to Mr. Finkbeiner because he said he needs the dog for stress reduction but did not supply any medical documentation to prove it.

Mr. Sullivan said in his letter that he s been trying for nearly a year to get documentation justifying Scout s role as an assistance pet. Then, in a recent television news report, the mayor s public information officer, Brian Schwartz, acknowledged that Scout is a pet and companion, not a therapy dog, Mr. Sullivan said.

Yesterday, Mr. Schwartz declined to comment on whether Scout fulfills a therapeutic need for the mayor, saying that s a private matter.

He said being forced to disclose that would violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which provides for patient medical information privacy.

Mr. Schwartz said there was no prohibition on pets in the city s lease of Government Center office space and that Mr. Sullivan was unable to provide him with a written regulation prohibiting pets in the building.

Mr. Sullivan works for the Reuben Co., which manages the building.

Mayor Finkbeiner started bringing Scout with him in December. Mr. Finkbeiner and his wife, Amy, adopted the dog that was trained by Assistance Dogs of America in Swanton. However, Scout has arthritis, which precludes him from being used as an assistance dog.

The dog has free run of the 22nd floor, is often walked during the day by the mayor s staff, and sometimes accompanies Mr. Finkbeiner on trips out of the building.

The dog entered the mayor s life about 2 years after Mr. Finkbeiner underwent a heart bypass operation.

Mr. Sullivan said he s never received a complaint about Scout. He just has rules he has to enforce.

Pets are strictly prohibited in OBA facilities, Mr. Sullivan wrote.

It was not clear who was more upset about Scout s potential banishment the mayor or the people who work for the mayor.

You expect me to go into a Wednesday meeting without Scout? asked one director in mock horror.

I think it s therapeutic for all of us, Mr. Reinbolt said. I think it has cut down the tension on the whole floor.

Mr. Finkbeiner was not available for comment.

Ryan Reiter, a mayor s assistant in the economic development department who frequently volunteers to walk the dog, said in a recent interview that the dog is loved.

He said he complies with the leash law when he walks the dog and cleans up after the dog when called for.

If his routine is jarred, that s going to be a problem for Scout, Mr. Reiter said.

He said walking the dog took only a few minutes and was more than compensated by the extra hours he put in on the job.

In August, Mr. Finkbeiner came under criticism for leaving Scout in his car while it was illegally parked in a handicapped-parking spot with the windows left open. The mayor was given a $100 ticket.

That wasn t the mayor s first controversy over pets.

In 1997, he sternly rejected an appeal from a young West Toledo woman who wanted to keep two pet hens in a pen in her backyard, over the objections of city inspectors.

The mayor denied the woman s claim that he was very, very mad and said he was trying to show empathy for her while also enforcing the city code.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.