The role of dog warden in Lucas County would "move from the stone age to the modern age" under the leadership of any of the seven finalists interviewed this week to replace the retired Tom Skeldon, county Commissioner Ben Konop said yesterday.
"I think [the interviews] showed there's a lot of qualified candidates out there who embrace a progressive and common-sense approach to dog-wardening," Mr. Konop said. "I walked out optimistic about the future of the dog warden's department."
Mr. Konop sits as his own representative on the three-person committee that, along with the county's human resources director, interviewed the candidates Wednesday.
While a final selection is likely weeks away, the commissioner said it's his sense that any of the seven candidates offers a significant improvement over the outdated catch-and-kill practices and policies that have prevailed at the county pound.
Mr. Skeldon retired Jan. 31 after more than 22 years on the job.
He announced his early departure last fall after weeks of mounting pressure from dog advocacy groups and Mr. Konop, who together criticized Mr. Skeldon for his high kill-rate and low adoption numbers, among other complaints.
Mr. Konop said he was especially impressed by how each candidate professed an adoption rate goal of 80 percent or higher for all dogs who enter the pound and aren't reclaimed by owners.
What's more, he said, each candidate was against "breed-specific" policies, and all seven believed that no breed of dog, including "pit bulls," should be deemed inherently vicious. Each of the finalists also expressed an intent to work closely with area rescue groups to try to find new homes for harder-to-adopt dogs.
"And every candidate also agreed that you should never kill a puppy," Mr. Konop added, noting how healthy puppies were routinely euthanized by the warden until a recent puppy-killing moratorium.
Yet some of those viewpoints Mr. Konop applauded could pit the future warden against state and local laws.
For instance, Ohio singles out "pit bulls" as inherently vicious animals. In addition, a Toledo ordinance, currently contested in court, puts additional restrictions on "pit bulls" or "pit bull"-mix dogs, such as limiting city residents to owning no more than one of the breed or mix.
"Pit bull" is a generic descriptive term for a dog trained to fight and may refer to multiple breeds, including the American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, and American pit bull terrier.
Mr. Konop is joined on the selection committee by Aimee St. Arnaud, founder of Humane Ohio, who was appointed by Commissioner Pete Gerken, and Nathanael Ford, a retired Toledo police deputy chief whom Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak named to represent her.
The group spoke to five candidates in person and two by phone, and each interview lasted about 45 minutes, Mr. Konop said. The field will be narrowed next week after follow-up interviews.
Mr. Gerken said he could not comment on the interview process thus far until he has a chance to speak with his committee representative.
An assistant for Ms. Wozniak said that she also will be briefed on the interviews.
The commissioners have the final say on which candidate gets hired.
Former Pound Manager Bonnie Mitchell has served as the county's acting dog warden since Mr. Skeldon left.
Mr. Konop said he hopes a new warden can be chosen by unanimous consensus within the next few weeks.
The seven candidates are:
•Cindy Thurston of Liberty Center, Ohio, a veterinarian.
•Julie Lyle of Ishpeming, Mich., who owns a dog-training facility.
•John Brown of Swanton, training and behavior coordinator at the Toledo Humane Society.
•Dana Miller of Franklin, Va., a veterinarian.
•Tracey Merrithew of Toledo, an autopsy technician and trained veterinary technician.
•Jeanne Martinez of Pueblo, Colo., a former animal regulation center supervisor for the city of St. Louis, Mo.
•Jay Barman of Toledo, a dog trainer.
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