Residents Speak Out About Animal Shelter

The animal kill rate for 2012 at the Belmont County Animal Shelter was 51 percent, as 340 of 664 dogs kept there during the year were put down, according to figures provided by the Concerned Citizens for the Animals of Belmont County group.

Group members spoke out during Wednesday’s Belmont County Commission meeting, citing their worries about operations at the shelter and the actions of the Belmont County Animal Rescue League.

They expressed concerns about the high number of dogs euthanized at the shelter, overcrowding at the facility and the failure of shelter personnel to properly market the dogs for adoption.

“In the 15 years (the league) has been under contract to run that shelter, we have established certain policies and procedures,” said Bob Painter, treasurer for BCARL. “Unfortunately, those policies and procedures don’t always make everybody happy.”

Speaking for Concerned Citizens for the Animals of Belmont County was Cyndi Yanez, a former member of the BCARL board. Yanez said she was voted off by members in October after speaking out about the killing of a dog for which there was interest in adoption.

In her comments, Yanez asked commissioners to sever contact with BCARL and take back operation of the shelter immediately. She requested they terminate shelter manager Verna Painter and assistant dog warden Lisa Williams and appoint either an independent dog warden or enter into a contract with the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department to operate the dog shelter.

Yanez asked the commission to form a committee to examine management at the facility and to request the sheriff conduct additional investigations into issues there. She also expressed concerns that BCARL was not an official humane agency and asked that commissioners petition county probate court to curb its powers to seize animals on private property.

Members of Concerned Citizens for the Animals of Belmont County in attendance said only a small number of dogs at the shelter have their photos placed online for possible adoption. Others present added they had attempted to adopt dogs from the shelter, only to have shelter personnel tell them the dog was unadoptable or they would not be permitted to adopt a dog.

BCARL’s procedures are “pretty much inflexible,” according to Bob Painter.

“I don’t know why (the adoptions were denied), but I wouldn’t be surprised there was a good reason …,” he said. “You’re blaming Verna or the shelter staff. There are procedures … we don’t adopt dogs to people that have unaltered animals … or to people where the dogs won’t become part of the family. I don’t know (the situation).”

Those present said they didn’t even receive applications to fill out for the animals, and Painter said he could bring 100 people to the commission meeting who would say they had a positive experience dealing with the shelter.

The phone line at the Belmont County Animal Shelter was busy Wednesday afternoon, and attempts to contact Verna Painter were unsuccessful.

Commissioner Matt Coffland said the commission is looking into operations at the animal shelter, and did meet with the BCARL board “in the last month” to address complaints.

“These have dropped off now, but not completely,” he said.