Monday, January 25, 2010

The next dog warden

THE retirement of Tom Skeldon gives Lucas County the best chance it has had in more than two decades to examine what sort of training and experience the county dog warden should have. Commissioner Ben Konop made a good start by suggesting that the next dog warden should at least have a college degree or significant training in an appropriate field.

The departure of Mr. Skeldon, whose policies toward so-called "pit-bull" breeds were archaic if not brutal, will mean little if he is not replaced by a warden who is committed to instituting policies more in line with 21st-century attitudes and knowledge about dogs. That means soliciting applications from candidates with formal training and relevant experience.

The ideal candidate would have a degree in animal or veterinary science and experience as a supervisor in animal care or control.

Failing that, a college degree in public or business administration would be acceptable - and useful in a county department with a multimillion dollar budget - as long as the candidate also has a significant work history in animal care.

A new dog warden, guided by the recommendations of the Lucas County Dog Warden Advisory Committee, will be empowered to end the senseless and indiscriminate killing of "pit-bull" breeds, cut the overall kill rate at the county dog pound, increase the number of dogs reunited with their owners, and increase adoptions, especially by working more closely with canine rescue groups.

This week, Dr. Bob Esplin, a veterinarian, brought together nine "pit bulls" and nearly three dozen adults and children for a "pittie party." The event offered a reminder that training, not breed, makes a dog vicious.

City, county, and state regulations and policies should reflect that truth. Hiring an appropriately educated and trained dog warden is a step in that direction.