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Even with many animal rescue groups in northwest Ohio, Julie Lyle found that adopting out dogs was harder than she expected when she took over as Lucas County dog warden in April of 2010.
After sending out almost 200 letters to animal rescue organizations in Lucas County and beyond asking them to join her newly established "Transfer Partner Program," Ms. Lyle received a response from just 11. They collectively took in 79 dogs between June, 2010, and the end of May, 2011.
Only three -- You Lucky Dog in Oregon, Planned Pethood in Toledo, and Maumee Valley Save-A-Pet in Toledo -- took in more than a couple of dogs.
"My understanding was that basically there are a lot of local groups that wanted to take dogs [from the pound] and there wasn't an avenue in the past," Ms. Lyle said. "A lot of these groups had been very vocal in the past about wanting to take our dogs."
Lucas County has at least 17 animal rescue organizations, according to a recent count of groups listed on the online animal adoption database petfinder.com.
Neighboring counties have many other organizations.
Some of the rescues are small, home-based operations, and others, such as the Toledo Animal Shelter, have their own shelter facilities.
In addition to Ms. Lyle's program, the Toledo Area Humane Society takes in many of the pound's adoptable dogs under a separate contract.
John Dinon, executive director of the Humane Society, has said he cannot take every adoptable dog as soon as it becomes available.
Ms. Lyle said that means some animals linger at the Lucas County pound, putting them at risk of developing medical and behavioral problems.
"The longer dogs sit here, the more trouble they're typically going to have getting out of here," the warden said. "The faster the dogs can move out of here, the more dogs that we can help."
The obstacle to that happening, some local animal advocates say, is the legacy of former Lucas County dog warden Tom Skeldon, who they maintain alienated area rescue groups by refusing to work with them.
As a result, several organizations built relationships with pounds and shelters in other counties, even other states.
Many continue to take dogs from outside Lucas County.
Cindy Smith, president of the Toledo-area animal rescue 4 Paws Sake Inc., said her organization took in dogs from Kentucky until two years ago and continues to rescue animals from neighboring counties.
She said the group, which cares for about 30 dogs in foster homes, found it impossible to take in dogs from the Lucas County pound under Mr. Skeldon, so it looked elsewhere.
4 Paws Sake has taken in three of the pound's dogs through Ms. Lyle's program, according to the warden's records.
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"It's hard to just completely cut ties with [outside pounds]," Ms. Smith noted. "However, we're not looking at them as much."
Vickie Hancock, who runs a small-scale rescue called Pooky Boo Pet Rescue out of her Toledo home, said she received Ms. Lyle's invitation to join the transfer program but didn't sign up because she already has her hands full.
Ms. Hancock said she takes in dogs from owners who can no longer care for them and rescues animals that come from dog pounds in southern Ohio.
Dogs from that area are in more dire need than the ones in Lucas County because some pounds there still use inhumane killing methods such as gassing, she said.
"Up here we at least humanely euthanize our animals with a little dignity," Ms. Hancock said.
The persistent economic crisis has also played a part in preventing local rescues from providing more assistance to the Lucas County pound.
Many rescues, including 4 Paws Sake, also take in dogs directly from owners who can no longer care for them.
With people losing jobs and homes, many more pet owners are asking rescues to take their animals, Ms. Smith said.
"We are just inundated with owner surrenders this year -- people who can't afford them, don't want to take them to the pound," Ms. Smith said. "We have a waiting list, so it's really hard for us to go outside and rescue from the dog warden's office."
But Jean Keating, co-founder of the Ohio Coalition for Dog Advocates and a member of the Lucas County Dog Warden Advisory Committee, said area organizations should do more to help their local pound adopt out more dogs.
It doesn't make sense that a county with so many rescue groups should have a pet overpopulation problem, she said.
"We can't expect the Toledo Area Humane Society is going to take all the adoptable dogs for Julie and whatever's left she's going to adopt out," Ms. Keating said. "The other rescue organizations need to step up to the plate."
One rescue that has stepped up to help is "You Lucky Dog" in Oregon, which despite being small has taken in 48 dogs from the Lucas County pound since signing up for the transfer partner program last year.
Jane Huth, founder and president, said she too used to take dogs from outside counties such as Sandusky and Henry but has stopped doing so since Ms. Lyle took over.
"The need is here also," Ms. Huth said. " I live in Lucas County. I preferred doing it over here."
Ms. Huth said she would like to see more local rescues taking in dogs from the Lucas County pound, although she applauds all of them for the work they do.
"I think everybody's doing pretty much what they think they need to do. They're all good, they're all taking money out of their own pockets, doing foster care," Ms. Huth said. "I wish everybody could save everybody, but it just doesn't happen that way."
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6272.