Representative Koehler Visits County Animal Shelter

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Ohio House of Representative Kyle Koehler recently stopped by for a visit at The Humane Society Serving Clark County to meet the staff and learn more about the conditions and operations at the shelter.

Koehler and his legislative assistant Britney Howland met with Interim Director Andy Heims and Shelter Coordinator Krissi Hawke. Hawke brings fifteen years of experience to the Humane Society that serves residents throughout Clark County including the City of New Carlisle and the City of Springfield.

Koehler asked about the numbers of dogs that come into the shelter during a year. Hawke explained that 80 percent of the intake is a pit bull or a pit mix. Koehler experienced was on hand to observe what the shelter staff see on a daily basis when a dog owner arrived to claim his animal that had been removed from the streets.

Hawke explained that the staff quite often see dogs and cats that come to the shelter suffering from illness, infections and at times suffering the results from insufficient food and or water. She explained that the job of the staff is not to take away animals, but most times intervien with education and at times resources.

Koehler toured the facility while learning about the requirements of taking care of the homeless pets that arrive at the shelter. The newly remodeled cat room demonstrates how volunteer service and donations can improve the lives of the felines who come to the shelter. Mr. Koeher also visited the small puppy room that keeps the tiny dogs away from the adult dogs to prevent illness.

During the conversation Hawke expressed that one of her best days was when there were “zero adoptable dogs in the building”. She noted that in the past 15 years that occurred only once and lasted perhaps an hour.

Learning about the funding stream for the Humane Society was of great interest to Mr. Koehler. He was unawaree that the shelter employees are not county employees. The Humane Society is a non-profit organization. The Dog Wardens are employed by the county with a portion of their salaries being paid by the Humane Society. The Humane Society does receive some of their annual budget from the sale of from the dog and kennel fund (dog license fees). They also depend on other resources such as grants to meet their annual expenses. Koehler asked about the financial constraints on Humane Societies and Dog Wardens statewide. Hawke explained some of the differences in other counties noting the in Clark County the Warden and Humane Society are “in it together for the animals”.

The shelter is an open intake facility for dogs however because there is no funding for cats, the intake is limited and there is always a waiting list. This speaks to why the shelter goal is to spay and neuter every pet that is adopted from the facility.

Hawke explained to Mr. Koehler and his aide that the Humane Society works with 450 rescue groups across the United States and Canada to find forever homes for the animals. Employees and volunteers work together to spend Saturdays at the local PetSmart and other adoption events throughout the year. Pets from the shelter are featured on Facebook and other online adoption sites daily.

PetSmart Team Leader and volunteer Julianne Whitacre stopped by the shelter to meet with Koehler to explain why so many spend hours helping at the shelter and events. She noted that she first came to the shelter with her now college age daughters to do community service. “I believe all animals need to have a forever home” said Whitacre when asked why she continues to volunteer her time.

PetSmart also provides a room where cats from the shelter are available for adoption. The partnership with PetSmart has resulted in improved adoptions over the years and continues to be a resource for the shelter.

Hawke explained that the money generated by cats from the shelter are more of a donation as often times the costs of feeding and medical attention are much more than the $30. Hawke writes annual grants to try to secure additional funds for the felines. Cat owners who do not spay or neuter their animals contribute to the increase in unwanted pets across the nation and in Clark County.

As Koehler moved through the clinic room and the isolation room he learned about the duties of the Dog Wardens and the shelter employees. Hawke explained that the Humane Society is a member of the county Hording Task Force unlike other counties in the state. Working with law enforcement and Job and Family Services, the Humane Society is called to the scene to assist in removals and participates in court proceedings.

Koehler also learned about the connection that Hawke has made with the state correctional facility in Lima. Shy dogs and cats that may have a difficult time being adopted at the shelter are taken to the prison for an 8 week training program. These pets often are adopted prior to their return to the shelter and are trained in basic commands and leash ready when they are picked up by their adoptive families.

During his meeting with the Dog Wardens, he was asked how the State of Ohio could improve conditions for animals. Deputy Warden Berrigan Sheils stated that cruelty laws need to be updated and upgraded. She gave examples of the need to put more of an impact on the actions of dog owners within the legal system. She noted that “the public could impact on the outcome of the future” in her remarks. Deputy Dog Warden Sheils explained that all dogs kept outside must have a dog house / shelter, food and water. She also explained that tethering laws need to be improved noting that dogs cannot be outside constantly without having some effect on them.

When asked why she elected to become a dog warden Sheils stated “to speak for those who don’t have a voice”. Sheils majored in Animal Service at The Ohio State University prior to joining The Humane Society. Koehler also asked about her job. “Every day is different” she said. “I love my job,” she said, noting that at times it is “frustrating” when you see repeat offenders in the community. In closing Sheils stated that her goal is to “make things better one animal at a time”.

Koehler and Ms. Howland appeared to enjoy their visit commenting frequently on the shelter work and their dedicated staff. Mr. Koehler is the first state representative to visit the shelter in recent history. His interest in the community and services being provided to residents appears to be high on his list as he tours around his district meeting those who serve and learning how organizations such as the Humane Society operate.

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