Two contradicting schools of thought were on display in Ohio yesterday. While it seems clear that new, logically thinking will eventually win out over old-school thinking, the Old-Schoolers are not going down without a bit of a fight.
This week, Lucas County, OH's new dog warden, Julie Lyle, took over as the new county dog warden.
Thirty six hours into her job, she got to create her first controversy when she stopped the "euthanasia" of six 'pit bulls' that were scheduled to be killed. Lyle said that Amos was a lovely dog, and she did not wish to kill him, but her hands were tied by the county's policy that prevents 'pit bulls' from being adopted and her administrations self-imposed 30 day ban against Lyle making any operational changes.
County Adiminstrator Peter Ujvagi instructed Lyle to continue on with the current policy until the 30-day window is up to make changes. Of the 30 day policy, Ujvagi said ther is nothin unsual about the waiting period and "the idea was to give her the opportunity to be able to learn and undertand the operations of the dog warden's office, weigh them, and make recommendations. She needs to be given a chance to be able to succeed in her job."
My initial reaction is amazement. My presumption is that the county hired Lyle because of her experience, and that based on that experience, would be able to make this sort of policy recommendation without even setting foot inside the shelter first. If the administration really does want to set a positive tone for reducing the killing in the shelter, then they should allow Lyle to set that tone from day one -- and not spend 30 days killing 'pit bulls' because of an old, outdate policy set up by her predecessor.
I'm not the only one who thinks so.
County Commissioner Ben Konap emailed Ujvagi to get him to suspend the 30 day policy on no changes. Dr. David Grossman, a member of the dog warden advisory committee that recommended the hiring of Lyle who also serves on the County Health Commission also criticized the decision. Ujvagi's decision to not allow Lyle to make changes was also criticized by Tamara Ernst, founder of 4 Lucas County Pets and Jean Keating, co-founder of Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates. "We did a very good job of weeding through the candidates and picking a candidate that I have full confidence in, that is going to make the changes the community wants to see happen in Lucas County," Keating said. "We need to let her do her job."
Meanwhile, all of the candidates for the upcoming County Commissioner's race also expressed the desire to let Lyle change the policy -- including Republican Andy Glenn, George Sarantou and Dan Steingraber and Democrats Mike Zychowicz, Ben Krompak, Earl Murry, Tim Porter, Art Jones and Carol Contrada. All of their comments can be found here (it's worth the read). Current county commissioner Peter Gerken supported the decision to continue the killing for 30 days.
While it seems clear that a new breed of politicians is in place to replace the old-school, outdated thinking and catch-and-kill philosphy of their predecessors, it looks like the old school is hanging onto their outdated policies with their final grasp. The changes are coming...and inevitable.
Meanwhile, in Columbus,the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee heard discussion about repealing the state's 23 year old policy that automatically declares 'pit bulls' as "vicious". The bill, HB 79, was proposed by Rep. Barbara Spears (among others).
Former Lucas County Dog Warden, Tom Skeldon -- part of the old-school group and who resigned under political scrutiny last fal - was in attendence to push for the law to remain as-is. I think the fact that his own community decided they were tired of his way of thinking should be a strong signal to the politicians in Columbus of what direction they should go with the law. As the Blade's editorial says:
"Remarkably, Mr. Skeldon was in Columbus yesterday, begging a legislative committee on behalf of the Ohio Dog Warden's Association to keep the state's medieval laws concerning "vicious" breeds. Rather than a credible authority, he stands for everything that's wrong about animal control."
I couldn't have said it better myself.