Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken, left, says that if Toledo police officers were trained in dog-related matters, it would lessen the burden on county dog warden Julie Lyle, right.
The Blade/Lori King
Toledo City Councilman D. Michael Collins and Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken agree that if Toledo police officers were trained in dog-related matters, it would lessen the burden on the dog warden and save the city money it now pays the dog warden for after-hours help.
Complaints by Toledo resident Donna Kamann about timely responses to dog issues prompted the meeting Wednesday attended by city and county officials.
In attendance were Mr. Collins, Mr. Gerken, Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle, Toledo Humane Society Executive Director Gary Willoughby, and Toledo Area Humane Society Operations Director Deb Johnson.
Police Chief Derrick Diggs and Shirley Green, deputy mayor and public safety director, were invited, but declined to attend.
Mrs. Kamann said she had called the Toledo Police Department on weekends regarding dogs running at large and it had declined to come out or to call the dog warden to respond. The city has a contract with the county that allows the police to call the dog warden for assistance on nights and weekends.
Last year, the city paid the county $94,974.98 for after-hours dog warden assistance. So far in 2013, the city has paid $21,252.04, according to Mr. Gerken.
“The responsibility regarding caring for these animals after hours and on weekends could be everyone’s responsibility to some degree,” Mrs. Kamann said in a telephone interview. “Instead of placing blame or pointing fingers and shifting it from one department to another, there is an answer out there. If everyone would be willing to see it as a community problem and everyone would agree to take some of the responsibility without draining just the city or just the county, maybe it would work.”
Mr. Collins and Mr. Gerken said they both recognized Mrs. Kamann’s concerns, but Mr. Collins said that without resources such as police department animal control officers, the city is not able to increase the level of service to the extent that she would like.
“Having said that, the only conceivable way to move your concerns into a stronger delivery system would be to engage Mayor Bell, Safety Director Green, and Chief of Police Derrick Diggs,” Mr. Collins told Mrs. Kamann in an email after the meeting. “Council can legislate funding, but we cannot demand that the mayor increase services to the level you desire.”
Mr. Collins alleges that the police chief has refused to allow dog-related training for the officers so they could handle after-hour dog calls in the evening, overnight, and weekends instead of the city paying the dog warden overtime.
In lieu of the training for all officers, there could also be a TPD animal control officer who would handle such duties, which the mayor and chief have also refused, Mr. Collins said.
Public information officers for both the mayor’s office and the police department did not respond to requests for comment from Chief Diggs or Mayor Bell.
Police officers are wasting time waiting for deputy dog wardens to come to situations that they could handle themselves if they were properly trained, Mr. Collins said.
Recently a “pit bull”-type dog was thrown over the fence at the Toledo Animal Shelter, Mr. Collins said. The shelter doesn’t handle strays and called the dog warden to come and get it. The dog warden doesn’t go out after hours unless called by police, so the dog warden instructed the animal shelter caller to call the police. The police came out, assessed the situation, and called the dog warden. The police were then held up waiting because the contract specifies that they must be there when the dog warden deputy comes out.
“Three hours of police time was spent on a situation that could have been taken care of in much less time,” Mr. Collins said.
The police have access to the dog warden facility and can drop dogs off anytime.
“My hope has been and continues that the Lucas County dog warden would put on a second shift by reducing the day-shift personnel,” Mr. Collins said. “In addition, I have requested our Division of Police to train a small cadre of patrol officers to perform the duties of an animal control officer. Unfortunately, they have rejected this operational concept.”
Mrs. Kamann said she planned to reach out to Mayor Bell and Chief Diggs.
Contact Tanya Irwin at: email@example.com or 419-724-6066.