Troy Teneyck's voice choked with emotion Saturday night as he stood before a candlelit crowd of more than 120 people outside the Lucas County Dog Warden's animal pound on Erie Street.
Two months earlier, the Teneyck family dog, a 6-year-old chow named Bear, disappeared from their East Toledo home. And two days after Bear's disappearance, the family learned over the phone that their pet had met a fiery fate in the dog pound's incinerator.
Mr. Teneyck shared the story of his family's loss during a candlelight vigil in memory of all the dogs that have died at the county pound.
The vigil, though planned months in advance, fell on the same week as an Oct. 20 presentation by an oversight committee for the Lucas County dog warden that said too many dogs were euthanized and not enough adopted out to new homes.
Stephen Serchuk, chairman of the dog warden advisory committee, told the county commissioners that the dog warden's agency, headed since 1987 by Tom Skeldon, lacks standard procedures for its daily operations, including protocols for euthanasia and the use of tranquilizer darts to subdue mangy dogs.
Members of the 11-person committee issued four recommendations for improving the agency, including the reinstatement of controversial door-to-door dog license checks.
"They took my dog from me," Mr. Teneyck said, his voice heavy with emotion. "At first it was a shock to me. As the shock wore off, it turned into anger. And as the anger left, it turned into sadness."
Anger seemed to mix with sadness during the hour-long vigil, organized by the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates.
"We want to raise the public's awareness of what goes on down here at the dog pound," said Jean Keating, the coalition's co-founder, who gave the opening remarks at the vigil. She spoke from a podium near a board marking every dog euthanized this year at the shelter.
Many in the crowd said they were disgusted by the high kill rate at the county's pound, said to be one of the highest in the state with 2,483 dogs euthanized last year, or 80 percent of all dogs taken in.
"This reign of terror needs to stop right now," speaker Sarra Beam said.
"We could save a lot of dogs but they won't let us," said Rita Bonnell of Rossford, who operates a rescue shelter and disagrees with the warden's policy against transferring animals to "all-breed" operations other than the Toledo Area Humane Society.
The evening included a moment of silence for the departed dogs and those animals currently in the kennel, and the playing of the Sarah McLachlan song, "I Will Remember You".
The event also paid respect to the memory of Princess, a 10-pound Pomeranian-beagle mix who died in February after being shot with a tranquilizer gun by a deputy dog warden.
Cheers and applause broke out when speaker Dan Grove called for the removal of Mr. Skeldon, who has served as dog warden since 1987. An assistant to Mr. Skeldon on Friday said he was aware of the planned vigil but would not comment on it or the group's claims.
Mr. Teneyck said his dog Bear got loose on Aug. 16 and was observed being hit by a silver or gray car. He said his family scoured the neighborhood looking for the dog and visited the county pound on two separate days to see if he was there. Although Bear was not licensed, his name was put on a missing dog list, Mr. Teneyck.
Mr. Teneyck said he then received a phone call from the dog warden's office the morning of Aug. 18. He said he was told that they had found his dog with a broken leg. However, in the next breath he was told that they had euthanized the animal that morning.
According to Mr. Teneyck, his injured dog was picked up by warden deputies just steps away from his home at about 7 a.m. that morning.
"It's pretty sad that stuff like this happens," Mr. Teneyck said.
- JC Reindl