Kennel improvements underway, officer hired
by Jazz Clark
Improvements to the county’s Animal Control dog kennels on Martinsburg Road, which have been the subject of controversy in recent weeks, are underway with more planned.
County Commission President Stacy Dugan announced the plans last Thursday, saying the county would not be moving its Animal Control operations.
A house on the kennel property, once used as the residence for the county’s Animal Control officer, is no longer being used.
Dugan said that building could be used for additional animal housing, which was met with majority approval by Dugan and Commissioner Brad Close. Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson was opposed.
“We found a large pen which is now at Animal Control. We have gotten donations of fencing as well as posts, since we need a dog run,” said Dugan. “I suggest we make the downstairs of the house an office and provide an isolation area for the dogs. Maybe we can take the kitchen out and put in a bathing area for dogs.”
Dugan had also gotten quotes from Hunter’s Hardware on paint and different-size dog crates.
A mention of crating dogs seemed to cause alarm among those gathered at the commission meeting, but Dugan stated crates were temporary holding areas before baths and possibly for isolation, not a permanent dog location.
Amy Lane, an organizer of the protest group “Bark at the Commission,” said poor conditions and potential for disease at the county kennels are a major cause for concern.
“My purpose was to raise community awareness of the facilities, and the lack of proper facilities for the dogs in county control,” said Lane. ”There is plumbing with insulation the dogs could be eating, there’s an air conditioner with the cord hanging down where one bite and the dog is electrocuted. It is not set up properly to house dogs.”
During the meeting, Commissioner Hutchinson also gave a presentation on Animal Control facilities in neighboring counties to prompt ideas on improvements to Morgan County’s kennels.
“I’m willing to do anything to protect the lives of animals,” said Hutchinson. “One of the first calls I ever received as a commissioner was about animal control.”
Hutchinson had been advised by a contractor that the kennels weren’t worth fixing, and a waste of money.
Paul Murtha, speaking as the Humane Society’s president, told county officials that the organization made the decision to take dogs again, as soon as they are ready. The group had previously announced they would only handle cats.
“We have to get back in the dog business because we saw an opportunity to help the situation in Morgan County,” said Murtha. “After a 5-day period, rather than submit the animal in question for euthanasia, we assume they could be offered to us or a private shelter first.”
Murtha was referring to the state law that requires the county to hold stray or seized dogs for at least five days before disposing of the animals.
“I don’t want to be an enemy of the Humane Society,” said Dugan.
Murtha also stressed that the Humane Society is “by no stretch of the imagination associated with ‘Bark at the Commissioners.’”
Later that day, Murtha resigned as president of the Humane Society.
New animal officer hired
The commissioners voted to hire Jason Pearce as a fulltime animal control officer, following the firing last month of Holly Jack.
Pearce, who previously worked under Jack, came highly valued from multiple members of the Commission.
“He’s been our part-time animal control officer off and on for the last couple of years,” said Jody McClintock, county administrator. “He’s stepped up in acting as our full-time officer in the absence of one, and has done a fine job as far as I’m concerned.”
County officials are still in discussion whether to hire a part-time Animal Control employee to pick up the slack from the growing animal need in the county.