Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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Dog pound adds new manager to aid operations


Incoming pound manager Laura Simmons currently is an animal welfare agent in Wyandot County.


A new management position has been added at the Lucas County dog pound, the latest step in Dog Warden Julie Lyle’s efforts to reorganize and improve operations at the facility.

Lucas County commissioners recently approved Ms. Lyle’s request to appoint an operations manager at the pound. The position will be filled by Laura Simmons, currently an animal welfare agent at the Wyandot County Humane Society in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

As operations manager, Ms. Simmons will oversee the kennel and operations — 10 staff members in all — and also manage the pound’s adoption program.

“It’s for more efficiency,” the warden explained. “We’re excited to have Laura on board. She’s a very positive, ambitious young woman.”

The position combines the responsibilities of pound manager and office manager, previously held by Bonnie Mitchell and Marge Foust, respectively.

The county commissioners voted to abolish those positions on March 1 at the recommendation of Ms. Lyle, and the two former employees were dismissed as of May 7. County Administrator Peter Ujvagi said the decision was based purely on the need to reorganize the warden’s office and not because of any fault by the employees in question.

The creation of the operations manager position is based in part on recommendations from a private study of the pound by the American Humane Association last year. The study recommended appointing someone who could help the warden manage both office staff and animal care.

“It’s a big job and Julie felt that she’s lacking somebody with a bit of a multiapproach,” county Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said. The new position “adds a piece to the table and will be a great asset to the dog warden’s department in its effort to be the best it can be.”

In a letter to the Lucas County commissioners in February, Ms. Lyle highlighted some additional reasons for creating the position.

She said other changes at the pound, such as the hiring of a veterinarian and the creation of a volunteer program, would shift some responsibilities, leaving the pound manager with fewer people to oversee. The warden also stated that the office manager was a union member — a violation of the collective-bargaining agreement — and that she spent much of her time doing bargaining unit work rather than managing the front desk.

Having someone to oversee both the office and pound side would also lead to better coordination and consistency in how the warden’s office is managed, Ms. Lyle indicated.

“There have been occasions when one side of our operation has done something contradictory to what the other side of the operation has been told or had historically done, resulting in finger pointing” and ‘‘lack of accountability,” Ms. Lyle wrote.

Ms. Lyle has begun to implement sweeping changes at the dog pound since taking office just more than 12 months ago.

She is establishing a new adoption area at the pound, building a surgical suite, and has hired more staff members, including a part-time veterinary technician to go along with the planned addition of a full-time veterinarian. Ms. Lyle also has brought in volunteers to help care for the dogs. Under her watch, the number of adoptions at the pound has increased.

At the same time, the kill rate is up by 30 percent. The warden maintains this is because of a surge in the number of dogs seized and surrendered.

Ms. Simmons will report to Ms. Lyle and will help oversee many of the changes under way at the dog pound, the warden said. This includes a planned overhaul of the pound’s adoption process. Ms. Lyle said she would like to have a system that is more customer friendly with a focus on making matches between dogs and adopters. However, she insisted Ms. Simmons will not be expected to make any major changes right away.

“We’ll give her a few months before we make her revamp an entire program,” Ms. Lyle said.

According to her resume, Ms. Simmons has a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University and is working toward a master’s degree in animal welfare.

She has worked with animals for the last 12 years in a variety of organizations in Michigan, among them the Capital Area Humane Society in Lansing, where she ran the adoption program. In 2009, Ms. Simmons joined the Wyandot County Humane Society, where her responsibilities include preparing shelter animals for adoption, training and working with volunteers, assessing horses for adoption, grant-writing, and working as a veterinary assistant in a low-cost spay-and-neuter clinic.

The Wyandot County Humane Society is based in Upper Sandusky, 65 miles south of Toledo.

Ms. Simmons is to start work in Toledo on June 7.

When reached by The Blade, Ms. Simmons said she was thrilled to accept the new position. She said she is aware of the ongoing efforts to improve the pound and hopes to contribute to them, although she has no specific plans yet.

“It’s so new, but I definitely want to help get the adoption program going, get the volunteer program going, just to make it a better place for the animals and the community,” Ms. Simmons said. “I’m extremely excited and I can’t wait to start.”

Bridgette Kabat, the commissioners’ chief of staff, said Ms. Simmons was selected from a pool of more than 40 applicants. She will receive an annual salary of $53,000 plus health benefits.

“They think she’s going to be a go-getter right out of the gate, a very positive person,” Ms. Kabat said. “We look forward to her expanding our additional adoption program, trying to form relationships with other dog rescue groups, and adopt out more dogs.”

Commissioner Peter Gerken said Ms. Simmons’ appointment represents another step toward improving the dog pound.

“Certainly, we feel that the dog warden has now been around long enough to be empowered to run the operation the way she sees fit to improve it. She has taken a recommendation from a national study and put her own mark on it,” Mr. Gerken said.

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett or 419-724-6272

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