County dog euthanasia falls considerably


There were 1,544 dogs killed at the pound last year -- 407 fewer than in 2009, and 939 fewer than in 2008.

The number of dog deaths has fluctuated over the years but is down considerably from just a couple years ago, when practices at the pound were put under scrutiny.

Dog advocates credit the departure of former Dog Warden Tom Skeldon as the chief reason for the decline. His critics claimed he overemphasized euthanasia and showed scant interest in adopting out dogs. The former warden served from 1987 through 2009.

The new dog warden, Julie Lyle, who arrived in April, helped to lower the rate of euthanasia by encouraging adoptions and lifting Mr. Skeldon's ban on transferring dogs to most all-breed rescue groups. In addition to organizing more adopt-a-thons, the new warden started a program to find homes for a few of the most well-behaved "pit bull"-type dogs who would previously have been euthanized because of their breed designation.

"We're really happy with the progress that we have made and we will continue to work towards more," Ms. Lyle said Friday.

Steve Serchuk, chairman of the Lucas County Dog Warden Advisory Committee, a citizen-led oversight panel, said he was pleased with the latest numbers.

"Things are improving significantly," Mr. Serchuk said. "Adoptions are up, euthanasia is down."

Mr. Serchuk thanked the Toledo Area Humane Society for "stepping up to the plate" by accepting 595 dogs as transfers, or 254 more than in 2009.

He praised the dog warden department for adding a new category to its annual report: "dogs returned to owner in field."

By trying harder to return lost but licensed dogs directly to homes, the department provides a better public service for the $25 annual license fee and saves those owners and their dogs a trip to the pound, Mr. Serchuk said.

"That should be a number-one priority service for the department, returning licensed dogs to their owners in the field," he said.

Service calls to the dog warden rose last year to 5,427, a 162 increase from 2009. The number of attack investigations rose to 434 from 357. The report did not give data on the number of actual dog attacks or bites.

The oversight committee says there are about 50 serious dog bites each year in Lucas County, defined as bites that break the skin and require medical attention.

Jean Keating, co-founder of the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, said the euthanasia and adoption numbers are moving in the right direction.

She said it's best to compare the 2010 numbers to those from 2008, as the department experienced a surge of adoptions in late 2009 because of increased public awareness to the harshness of Mr. Skeldon's catch-and-kill methods.

"It's a dramatic improvement over the year before, and if you go back to '08, it's an even bigger jump," said Ms. Keating, also a member of the dog warden advisory committee. "They have done a dramatic turnaround."

Contact JC Reindl at: or 419-724-6065.