Volunteers want to return to Summit County Animal Control
After the retirement of Francis Kline Summit County Animal Control after working there for eight years, she was still going back five or six days a week to volunteer.
His visits ended in March 2020, when the county essentially closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The closure interrupted public access to the animal control facility, which opened in August 2010 at 250 Opportunity Parkway in Akron.
Almost 18 months later, the 19,494 square foot facility still remains closed to volunteers, and they want to know why.
“We know what we are doing. All we want to do is get a dog out and go for a run or a walk or a playgroup, and that used to work great, ”said Kline, of Akron. “I am vaccinated. I will wear a mask. I’ll go on a schedule. But I’m here for the dogs. And I just hope that the leadership of Summit County Animal Control will focus on what we’re here for, which is to get these adoptable dogs, which will make it easier for them to find good permanent homes.
Several former volunteers raised concerns at a recent Summit County Council meeting.
Greta Johnson, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Summit County Executive, Ilene Shapiro and County Public Information Officer, said that while there are currently no plans to reinstate the volunteer program, the county is certainly “considering” a more schedule-based volunteer program. Previously, the volunteer program was a walk-in program.
“We’re still in discussions about what makes sense to go ahead with a volunteer program,” Johnson said. “We understand that they are strong advocates for animals, and we appreciate that. We want to do our best for animals, staff and the adopting public, first and foremost, and we want to be aware that there is always a pandemic raging again. “
What is the role of Summit County Animal Control?
Johnson said there was often a misunderstanding about the role of animal control, which has specific legal requirements and obligations.
“As much as we care for and take good care of animals medically and socially, we are also not a rescue,” she said. “We have government operations and legal requirements for what we do there. And certainly, I think we are going beyond that, as we should, because the legal requirements for the length of keeping animals are quite minimal. “
Animal control is necessary to house and keep stray animals for three days, “in which case they can be sold or destroyed humanely,” Johnson said. But she said the only animals that are destroyed are when ordered by the court to do so. She said there had been no euthanasia related to space issues at the facility for nearly 15 years.
“Obviously, we are not destroying any healthy animals,” she said. “We continue to keep them until we can get them through.”
If an animal is microchipped or allowed, the facility is required to keep it for 14 days, with employees attempting to contact owners. If contact cannot be made, then the animal becomes eligible for adoption.
Volunteers say they completed the work of animal control workers
Animal control currently has 11 employees: an animal control officer, two assistant dog wardens, a full-time veterinarian, a full-time veterinary technician, a secretary and five pound keepers. The first employee is on-site at 6 a.m., and with staggered shifts, one employee is on-site until 5 p.m., Johnson said.
Marjorie Muirden runs Maggie’s Mission, a non-profit animal rescue. She asked how animal control workers can handle taking care of the large number of animals, as volunteers previously helped complete the workload.
“I don’t know how the employees… could do this without the volunteers who were there to provide a lot of services to the community and save the taxpayer a lot of money,” she said.
Johnson said all dogs are walked “several times a day”.
“A lot of dogs are engaged in play groups… where they socialize the dogs in a way that makes them interact with other animals in a more positive way,” she said. “Our staff have been professionally trained to organize these playgroups and how to manage these interactions between dogs. “
From January 1 to July 1, 2021, 166 dogs were adopted, 160 dogs were bought and 89 cats were adopted. The establishment accommodated 49 dogs and 95 cats which were returned or brought by the public.
As of Thursday, the facility had 69 dogs and eight cats. Its capacity is 92 dogs and 91 cats.
Adoptions are now only by appointment
Previous volunteers have also criticized the change to adoptions being by appointment only, which was announced in June 2020.
The administrative hours of the establishment are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and adoption hours are by appointment between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday, depending on website. The property is staffed on Sundays, but it is not open to the public.
People can call 330-643-2845 to make an appointment.
Johnson said the change in the appointment requirement allows animal control staff to better prepare for the adoption process. She said since the change there have only been two returns.
“The response we have received from our adoptive families has been overwhelmingly positive,” she said. “There is less fuss in the facility, so staff can focus on the demand from adoptive families. They can spend time working with the family to find the right dog. “
The establishment also continues to accept surrenders and remittances from owners and to accept euthanasia at the request of owners. They usually cost $ 25.
Johnson said the change to require appointments is also in line with how other county entities work.
“Most county operations appointments are required to do business with the county,” she said. “And so it would be typical for us to want members of the public to have a date to make sure we meet their needs.”
But Akron’s Cathy Soles said animal control is unlike any other entity in the county.
“I don’t know of any other company that deals with animals so I don’t know how they reflect them,” she said.
Soles also said that appointment times can make it difficult for workers to make appointments.
“If you work 9 to 5, there’s a good chance you weren’t going to get into animal control to watch a dog and adopt a dog during their practical work hours that they now love, take care of. are suitable, “Soles mentioned.
Voluntary: animal control should have reopened when health orders ended
Soles said she understood why the facility was closed to volunteers, with adoptions done by appointment only, between March 2020 and June 2021.
But in June, almost all Ohio coronavirus health ordersincluding her mask tenure ended, and she said changes in animal control should have ended as well.
“We pay taxes to have these animals taken care of and taken care of,” Soles said. “They were rejected by Summit County Animal Control.”
Volunteers said they were ready to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, wear masks and respect social distancing, noting that the county already has a mask requirement, regardless of vaccination status, for its buildings.
“I want to be there for the dogs, and I feel like the dogs want us out there,” said Stacey Ambrose of Mogadore. “Please allow us to come back. We will do it on a small scale. We’re going to allow a timeline to happen. But we want to be able to do what we are passionate about. “
Ambrose said she previously volunteered five to seven days a week “because it’s the right thing for dogs to do.” She stressed that she was not criticizing the keepers of the books, but only calling for the reinstatement of the volunteer program.
“Volunteers bring care, heart and compassion where their job may not be to do these things. They have so many hours a day in your budget to care for these animals, ”she said of animal control workers. “Allow the volunteers to come and give the extras… Why do we refuse the extras for the dogs? “
When asked about the possibility of allowing volunteers to return to the building following COVID-19 protocols, Johnson said, “I still think the best situation right now is to allow our staff, our professionally trained staff, to manage the care of animals and the needs of adoptive families.
Akron resident Jillian Hardman said allowing the public and volunteers in the building “to bring[s] a point of responsibility in this building.
“Everyone needs this,” Hardman said. “And I think accountability is also very important in animal control because they don’t have a voice… It’s a good thing to hold people accountable for what goes on in a public facility.”