A kennel worker at the Lucas County Dog Warden's office has been charged with one count of animal cruelty after he was accused of picking up a dog in a chokehold, slamming it against a kennel door, and throwing it into a kennel.
Aaron A. Nova, 26, of Millbury was charged with the second-degree misdemeanor stemming from a July 22 incident that was captured on video. The dog warden has 14 video cameras placed throughout the facility that record at all times. Dog Warden Julie Lyle was reviewing the video on Saturday looking for information regarding another matter when she came across the footage of Mr. Nova and the dog.
"I was shocked," Ms. Lyle said. "There is no tolerance for the mishandling of animals."
Separate from the criminal charges, which were brought via the Toledo Area Humane Society, Ms. Lyle is recommending to the county's human resources department that Mr. Nova be dismissed.
The dog, Marbles, a 46-pound brown-and-white Labrador retriever and hound mix that came into the pound as a stray, was adopted after the incident occurred. Ms. Lyle contacted his adopters Tuesday and they say he has not had any physical problems that they are aware of since the adoption.
Mr. Nova, who has been employed at the kennel for six years, could not be reached for comment.
Ms. Lyle shared the video Monday with John Dinon, executive director at the Toledo Area Humane Society, and the group's two cruelty investigators. The three agreed that Mr. Nova's actions warranted the cruelty charge. Humane Agent Gene Boros served Mr. Nova with a citation Tuesday. A date has not been set for a hearing in Toledo Municipal Court.
"I felt it was a clear case of cruelty," Mr. Dinon said. "I know if I witnessed a humane society employee engaging in similar actions, they would immediately be fired and cruelty charges would be filed."
However, Ms. Lyle must follow the process set out by Mr. Nova's union before a termination of employment can occur.
Mr. Nova was placed on paid administrative leave Monday pending an investigation, said Steve Kowalik, staff representative for Local 544 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Ohio Council 8, which represents dog warden employees.
"We will be meeting to view the evidence that the employer has," Mr. Kowalik said. "The burden of proof of guilt is on the employer."
Whether criminal proceedings will have an effect on Mr. Nova's attempt to retain his employment will depend on the timeliness of what comes first, the court proceedings or the union proceedings, Mr. Kowalik said.
"One could have an impact on the other," he said.
Mr. Nova has due-process rights under the terms of the union's contract, he added.
"That said, the union does not condone acts of animal cruelty," Mr. Kowalik said.
Ms. Lyle said workers receive training when they begin working at the pound on how to move dogs.
"It is always supposed to be done with the least amount of force necessary, starting with a leash and cookies," she said. "If the dog is aggressive or difficult to handle, then we use a catchpole. But this was a friendly dog who was up for adoption."
Mr. Dinon said Ms. Lyle should be credited for handling the situation quickly and appropriately.
"It's disappointing when someone whose job and profession it is to care for helpless animals acts like [Mr. Nova] did," he said.
Mr. Nova has a previous record of violent behavior. He pleaded no contest and was found guilty of domestic violence, knowingly causing or attempt to cause physical harm to family or household member, and also an assault charge, after striking the mother of his daughter with his fist and trying to pull her out of a motor vehicle.
He was sentenced May 3 to a six-month suspended jail sentence and two years of probation.
Contact Tanya Irwin at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6066.