Friday, November 20, 2009

Skeldon says he will step down Dec. 31, but Konop wants him dismissed immediately.........WOO HOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Article published November 19, 2009
EMBATTLED LUCAS COUNTY DOG WARDEN

BLADE STAFF

Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon has submitted a letter of resignation, effective Jan. 31, but Commissioner Ben Konop wants the warden to leave his office immediately.

"I am not comfortable with him as our dog warden for even another day," Mr. Konop announced at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

The commissioner, a vocal critic of the warden, commended Mr. Skeldon for "having the courage" to step aside but said he plans to introduce a motion at Tuesday's commissioners' meeting for his immediate dismissal.

If that motion fails, Mr. Konop said he will then seek the warden's suspension until his retirement date.

Mr. Konop's news conference came in response to an early morning announcement from Pete Gerken, president of the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, who said Mr. Skeldon intends to take advantage of his accrued vacation time, making Dec. 31 his last day in the office.

Mr. Gerken also said he will ask the county's administration to appoint Bonnie Mitchell, the current dog pound manager, as the interim dog warden while a search takes place.

Mr. Konop objected to both ideas.

"I don't think Mr. Gerken has earned the right to dictate the terms of replacing Mr. Skeldon, as it was he and Tina Skeldon Wozniak — Mr. Skeldon's first cousin — who consistently stood in the way of real change in the dog warden's office."

News of Mr. Skeldon's resignation spread fast through animal control and rescue circles. Barb Knapp, president of the president of the Ohio County Dog Wardens' Association, said she and dog wardens across the state were saddened to learn of Mr. Skeldon's unexpected departure.

"It's a sad day for the dog warden's profession in Ohio," said Ms. Knapp, who is dog warden of Erie County. "We lost a very valued and experienced person who succumbed to the pressure of the media and personal vendettas."

From previous editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com

Skeldon to retire Jan. 31, 2010

Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon has submitted a letter of resignation, effective Jan. 31, Pete Gerken, president of the Lucas County Board of Commissioners announced Thursday morning.

Commissioner Gerken shared the letter with his colleagues Thursday morning.

According to Mr. Gerken, Skeldon intends to take advantage of his accrued vacation time, making Dec. 31 his last day in the office.

"I'd like to publicly recognize Tom Skeldon's 20+ years as dog warden," Mr. Gerken said in a statement. "He has served over 10 different commissioners in a very difficult position and I wish him well in his retirement."

RELATED CONTENT
VIEW: Tom Skeldon's resignation letter: Nov. 19, 2009

Mr. Gerken said he will propose to his colleagues that a search committee be formed to find the next leader for this important county office.

"Each commissioner will have the opportunity to appoint one member to this search committee, which will be supported by the commissioners' Human Resources department," said Mr. Gerken.

Mr. Gerken also said he will ask the county's administration to appoint Bonnie Mitchell, the current dog pound manager, as the interim dog warden while a search takes place.

The story as it appeared in earlier editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com:

Skeldon stops puppy kills; warden won't halt euthanizing pit bulls
By JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon claims to have stopped killing all but the sickest puppies in his pound, but will continue to put down “pit bulls,” young and old, a member of the warden oversight committee said yesterday.

“No puppies, other than pit bulls, are being put down without consultation from a veterinarian,” said Dale Emch of the county's 11-seat Dog Warden Advisory Committee, who spoke with the warden yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Skeldon's moratorium marks a change from his practices, which according to a records review announced yesterday by Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop, resulted in the killings of 183 apparently healthy and “non-pit bull” puppies from January, 2007, through the end of last month.

A time-out from killing healthy puppies under 3 months of age was one of three endorsed recommendations made last week by the dog warden committee. While the county commissioners have not formally received or acted on those suggestions, two committee members met with Mr. Skeldon on Friday to discuss the measures.

Mr. Skeldon, who did not return a message seeking comment yesterday, has said he tries to adopt out every dog of good temperament and health that his staff deems adoptable.

Rob Ludeman, a Toledo City Councilman-elect and a member of the dog-warden committee, said that when he and committee chairman Steve Serchuk met last week with Mr. Skeldon, the warden emphasized that “we do kill puppies here who are very, very sick,” and explained that “to not euthanize would not be humane,” to those animals.

RELATED CONTENT
Read: Link to dog pound log: Nov. 19, 2009
But records reviewed by The Blade show the pound killed scores of healthy puppies that weren't “pit bulls” in recent years, raising questions about theseriousness of the warden's adoption pledge.

“The list is plentiful,” Mr. Konop said of the puppies killed at the pound since 2007. “There are dogs in here who had names already. There are dogs who are described as loving and kind and cute — and they were all killed at the Lucas County dog warden.”

Mr. Konop said it was unacceptable for Mr. Skeldon to put down those 183 pups instead of adopting them out. Such actions, he said, lend support to his calls for dismissing Mr. Skeldon from the job.

“It's become clearer and clearer that this is a community embarrassment — it doesn't reflect well on our citizens,” Mr. Konop said. “It really is an issue of decency, frankly, of human decency, and how we treat God's creatures.”

The moratorium recommended by the dog-warden committee would prevent the killing of all puppies that aren't seriously ill or injured, including the “pit bull” breeds of dogs considered inherently vicious under Ohio law.

However, Mr. Skeldon's current moratorium would not protect “pit bulls” from euthanasia. The warden refuses to adopt out any “pit bulls” to people or rescue groups.

John Dinon, executive director of the Toledo Area Humane Society, said the society is willing to take in all healthy puppies Mr. Skeldon gives them. The humane society is the only “all-breed” group the warden will work with, he said.

“We don't have a problem finding homes for puppies — those are the easiest animals to adopt,” Mr. Dinon said. “We don't even temperament-test puppies. … I've not seen a vicious puppy; I've seen a lot of playful puppies.”

As an example of the adoption demand, Mr. Dinon said he went on local television Saturday morning with two Australian Shepherd puppies from a litter of nine.

By the end of the weekend, all nine pups had new homes.

Commissioner Konop said he plans again to raise the issue of reforming the dog warden's office at the commissioners' next meeting on Tuesday. Mr. Konop's motion last week to fire Mr. Skeldon was voted down 2-1 by fellow commissioners Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak.

Ms. Wozniak yesterday reiterated her support for increasing the number of dogs adopted out of the pound and for the work of the advisory committee.

“We believe that more could be done to ensure that all adoptable dogs can find a home,” Ms. Wozniak, a first cousin to the dog warden, said.

“We continue to be very committed on that subject.”

Mr. Gerken did not return a message seeking comment.

Mr. Emch is a Toledo lawyer who writes a monthly legal advice column in The Blade.

Contact JC Reindl at:jreindl@theblade.comor 419-724-6065.