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Published: Wednesday, 2/29/2012 - Updated: 3 years ago

Warden reports positive changes

Better treatment of 'pit bulls' cited

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle, presents an update about the Dog Warden's Office during a meeting with the county commissioners. Also in attendance Tuesday were members of the Lucas County Dog Warden Advisory Committee, which developed policy recommendations and benchmarks for the pound just over a year ago.
Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle, presents an update about the Dog Warden's Office during a meeting with the county commissioners. Also in attendance Tuesday were members of the Lucas County Dog Warden Advisory Committee, which developed policy recommendations and benchmarks for the pound just over a year ago.
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Among the changes that Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle has made at the pound during her nearly two years in the position is stopping "pit bull"-type dogs from being treated like second-class citizens.

Ms. Lyle presented a progress report to the Lucas County commissioners at their Tuesday afternoon meeting. Improving the living standards for bully-breed dogs who end up at the pound was one big change.

"When I got here, if we brought in a 'pit bull,' it was handled on a catch pole," she said. "It was put into its kennel and never handled again unless the owner came to get it. Staff were not allowed to walk them, they were not allowed to pet them or touch them. And if their owners came to get them, they had to muzzle them in their kennels themselves and walk them out the back door. They were not allowed in the lobby. They were not allowed in any other area of the building once they entered our facility."

Now, she said, "pit bulls" are treated like any other breed.

"We house them and interact with them as much as any other type of dogs," she said. "We house them in an area that's appropriate for that specific dog. It doesn't matter what breed they are."

In the audience at the commission meeting were members of the Lucas County Dog Warden Advisory Committee, which developed policy recommendations and future benchmarks for the pound just over a year ago.

Committee Chairman Steve Serchuk said the group will meet in the next several weeks and put together a written response to Ms. Lyle's presentation and their own assessment of what else needs to change at the pound, which will be sent to the dog warden and county commissioners.

"They've come a long way from the department as it existed when [the advisory committee] was first formed, and we're impressed with what she's done so far," he said. "We still have a long way to go, but we're impressed. One thing she didn't speak about was the public-safety function," including efforts suggested by the committee to reduce the number of dog bites in the county.

One small change that Ms. Lyle implemented resulted in nearly $16,000 being added to the dog warden's operating funds. On the 2011 and 2012 dog-license renewal forms, a line was added to allow residents to donate an additional amount to the pound. More than $7,700 was collected in 2011, and so far more than $8,000 has been donated this year, she said. The deadline for dog-renewal licenses is Wednesday.

Some of the changes Ms. Lyle has made have been cosmetic but have dramatically improved morale and public perception, she said. Outdated brown polyester deputy-warden and kennel-worker uniforms were replaced with black cotton clothing for the deputies and kennel and office personnel. County workers repaired and repainted the cracked and peeling white pillars on the building's facade.

Hours have been expanded to better accommodate the public. Phones are now answered on Saturdays. Before Ms. Lyle's tenure, the public had to come into the building to talk to someone on a Saturday. "We don't ever want our hours to be a barrier to a dog getting a home," Ms. Lyle said.

Ms. Lyle, who choked up at the end of her presentation when she thanked the commissioners, her staff, and the public for supporting her in the changes she has made, was applauded by all three commissioners for the work she has done.

County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said, "You wouldn't be tearing up if you hadn't put your heart and soul into this position."

County Commissioner Carol Contrada said Ms. Lyle had "raised the bar for all of us."

Chairman Pete Gerken noted that Ms. Lyle is one of the youngest department heads in the county and said, "This department has come further in a shorter amount of time than any other, bar none."

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066.



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