LISBON — County dog warden Heidi Pecorelli decided to sever ties with a volunteer organization after they failed to adhere to policies and because of other problems.
“The job is hard enough, and if you have volunteers working against you instead of with you it makes it even harder,” she said.
Pecorelli was approached by because of two recent critical letters to the editor written by members of the volunteer organization, Friends of the Columbiana County Pound Dogs. She sent the six principals from the organization a letter dated Nov. 7 advising them their services were no longer needed and to cease saying they were associated with the pound.
“We are a small staff with huge responsibilities and we can no longer allow anyone to continue volunteering who is unwilling to follow basic rules and respect staff members,” the letter stated.
Pecorelli said the organization frequently chose to work independently instead of in cooperation with dog pound staff, but there were other problems as well.
A pound employee saw one of the volunteers getting in the face of dogs and yelling and even striking a dog in one instance. Another time a dog accidentally hung itself because of how the volunteer
Last October, a volunteer was seen removing five doggie pools that had been donated by someone other than the organization, and when confronted the volunteer said she was taking them home to store them for the winter. Pecorelli told her the pools are stored at the old dog pound but the volunteer took the pools anyway.
A report was filed with the county sheriff’s office, and the person responsible posted last weekend on Facebook the pools would be found at the end of her driveway to be picked up.
The group held public fundraisers and Pecorelli said some of the money was used to install two enclosed outside play areas, and she thanked them for their contributions. But deputy dog warden Amy Dowd said they grew concerned when the organization became increasingly reluctant to share information about its finances, and they were unsure whether the group had obtained tax-exempt status.
The first of the critical letters ran in December was from Kathleen Beadnell, who said they were “appalled” that the organization’s financial integrity was being questioned. “We can account for every penny we raised along with the personal money that supplemented the account to help it be successful. Can the county auditor say this for the dog pound? I think not,” she wrote.
Beadnell said the two “were unable to work together due to different work ethics and growing concerns” about pound operations.
The second critical letter ran in January and was about a volunteer who was severely bitten in August by a dog being shown to a family considering adopting it. The letter accused the dog pound of breaking the law by euthanizing the dog without first quarantining the canine for the required 10 days to determine if it had rabies.
There is a provision in the law allowing the dog to be euthanized immediately “to prevent further injury …,” and Pecorelli said that is what they did because of the potential threat the dog posed to pound staff. She also wanted the dog tested immediately for rabies, and it was sent to the Ohio Department of Health.
“We do everything we can to run the pound efficiently and safely. When you get too many breeds and types of dogs you’re going to have an accident,” she said.
County health department commissioner Wes Zins believes the immediate euthanization of the dog under the circumstances was appropriate because it likely posed a greater safety threat than rabies since the dog had been vaccinated. The state always sends rabies test results to the local health department but failed to do so in this instance, he said. The test results were negative.
“As far as I’m concerned everything was done” properly, Vins said.
The dog pound still has volunteers, but they are approved on an individual basis after being interviewed by staff. “There are still plenty of people who participate in the volunteer program,” Dowd said. “We have a wonderful group, and it’s a lot more peaceful and the drama is gone.”