Treat Animals, People Fairly

Belmont County commissioners are going to have to monitor the county Animal Shelter closely for some time. That was made clear during the past several weeks when, as commissioners thought they were on a path to dealing with complaints about the facility, new ones were voiced.

Various criticisms of the shelter and the Belmont County Animal Rescue League, which operates it, were made last year. Among them were that the league was not doing enough to get shelter animals adopted and was euthanizing too many of them. Concerns about treatment of animals at the shelter were raised, too.

Initially, a former BCARL board member questioned practices at the shelter. Then, in late December, representatives of the Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio visited the site and made recommendations. Among them was that commissioners provide 30 elevated, insulated dog houses for the shelter.

Commissioners went substantially beyond that. They authorized construction of 50 dog houses by students at the Belmont Career Center. Ten of them have been completed.

Then, this month, longtime dog warden Verna Painter, who managed the shelter, retired. Commissioners are in the process of finding a replacement.

That represents progress, but it has not stopped another round of criticisms – this one including a threat of court action against the county.

Earlier this year, commissioners learned the Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had demanded records from the shelter and was looking into allegations of mistreatment of animals. AN OSPCA lawyer also said commissioners’ relationship with the rescue league may not comply with state law. The group is not an official county humane society, the only type of organization to which commissioners can delegate authority to operate the shelter, the attorney said.

The law is the law, of course. Commissioners and the rescue league must abide by it.

But commissioners seem determined to address genuine problems – not just technicalities – involving the shelter. Doing that will require putting a good system in place now, then monitoring it closely.

If the bottom line – that animals and people are treated humanely and fairly – is achieved, the OSPCA should refrain from diverting county resources from that mission in order to dot every “i” and cross every “t.”