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Dog wardens now have the jurisdiction to investigate animal cruelty and welfare concerns

Dog warden Jonathan Beam, left; Chief, a 3-year-old terrier mix available for adoption; Holmes County Humane Society President Joni Deutschman; and deputy dog warden Ashley Porter.

Colleen Callahan

As of Jan. 1, 2017, the Holmes County Dog Warden’s Department will now have the jurisdiction to investigate animal cruelty and welfare concerns pertaining to dogs. Dog warden Jonathan Beam and deputy dog wardens Ashley Porter and Scott Goodland completed a four-day basic humane agent training course in London, Ohio, with topics that included ethics, investigation, animal husbandry and report writing. In the history of the HCDW there has never been an appointed humane agent. Now there are three.

The term “humane agent” means any person appointed by a county humane society pursuant to Revised Code Section 1717.06. In addition to the Holmes County Humane Society, Holmes County Commissioners supported and approved the appointment last December.

Previously the dog warden’s duties were strictly defined by Ohio Chapter 955 pertaining to registration of dogs. According to Beam, Chapter 955 gives their department the authority to enforce laws such as licensing, dogs at large, dangerous dog laws and various other minor dog laws.

“Under this law we did not have the authority to investigate animal cruelty,” Beam said. “Being the only officers dealing with dogs, we get a lot of animal cruelty complaints. Now that we have been appointed humane agents, we can investigate these calls without involving the sheriff in accordance with Chapter 959, dealing with offences relating to dogs.”

Beam and his deputies also will be enforcing the recently passed House Bill 60, better known as Goddard’s Law. This bill was named after recently retired Fox 8 meteorologist and animal activist Dick Goddard. Goddard’s Law makes it a fifth-degree felony to knowingly cause serious physical harm to a companion animal for a first offense. This bill also imposes mandatory time in prison for assaulting a police dog or a horse that dies as a result of its injuries.

In addition to conducting investigations on dog welfare concerns, Beam can now seize a dog that he suspects is in imminent danger. His department also can write citations and make arrests.

“In a situation where we conclude a dog needs to be removed from a property, the dog’s owner will be issued an impound notice with clear information of the suspected violations,” he said. “Within ten days the court will schedule a hearing. If a judge doesn’t believe our department had probable cause to seize the dog, it will be returned to the owner. If probable cause was met, the owner could face jail time and court-imposed fines and would be liable to make restitution to our department for all fees incurred including medical costs, feed and board.”

Dog abandonment was the number-one problem for the HCDW in 2016. According to Beam, last year they had received seven dogs from possible abandonment situations.

“It’s important for people to understand that it is illegal to abandon a cat, dog or any other domestic animal,” Beam said. “Anybody that is caught will be charged with a misdemeanor of the second degree on a first offense and a misdemeanor of the first degree on any subsequent offense.”

Emaciated and malnourished dogs also are a huge concern for the dog warden. Many of the abandoned dogs they recover suffer from these afflictions. Beam wants the public to know that it is illegal to deprive any companion animal “necessary sustenance including wholesome food and clean, fresh water.”

In addition lack of grooming and tight collars also are problematic. Beam has seen dogs needlessly suffer with matted hair that can cause serious skin disorders and collars that are embedded in the neck of a dog causing painful infections.

“Dogs grow and sometimes grow fast,” he said. “However, the collar does not expand unless dog owners intervene. A dog found wearing a collar embedded into its neck is evidence of animal cruelty, and the owners are subject to criminal charges.”

Holmes County Humane Society President Joni Deutschman receives as many as six dog welfare concern calls a month. Her lean volunteer staff does not include a humane agent. According to Deutschman, prior to the HSDW humane agent appointment, she would call the local sheriff to follow up on complaints and concerns.

“The Sheriff’s Department has been great with taking our calls and following up,” she said. “But now we can direct all cruelty complaints regarding dogs to the dog warden. This will be much more efficient and time-saving.”

According to Beam, education of responsible dog ownership has always been an important aspect of working with the public to ensure a cohesive relationship. He acknowledges that some people may not understand the current laws and invites those people to call and/or visit his department with any questions or concerns.

“We have an open-door policy, and we are here to serve the community,” he said. “Holmes County has an interesting variety of people on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to animal care. I’ve seen farmers who don’t allow their dog in their home, and I’ve seen folks who allow their dog to eat at the dinner table with them. I come from an Amish family, and I understand farm life for a dog. But I also understand that all dogs have a right to decent and humane care. It’s the law.”

The Holmes County Humane Society is always in need of volunteers. Call Joni Deutschman at 330-377-4026. For questions regarding current animal cruelty laws, call Jonathan Beam at 330-674-6301.

Published: January 30, 2017
New Article ID: 2017701309977