MOUNT VERNON — The “Dog Catcher” of old was the butt of many jokes and the villian of many a comic book and two-reel comedies of the 1930s and ’40s.
But that image is a thing of the past. Dog warden and/or animal control officer is no longer a position of political patronage. Nor is he the villian whose sole purpose in life is to deprive little boys of their dogs.
“It’s all about saving the lives of dogs,” said Roger Reed, Knox County’s dog warden/animal control officer.
Reed said that is his main charge as dog warden, but there is much more to the job than that.
“My job basically is to see that the Ohio Revised Code is followed,” he said. “it’s just like the police department has to enforce the Ohio Revised Code. There’s a section in it that pertains to my position. So it’s my job to see that it’s done.”
Reed is also in charge of the animal shelter. That in and of itself entails a number of duties, he said. Reed’s top priority, though, is saving dogs and getting them adopted.
“For too long, this facility, or rather the old one, had been known as the slaughterhouse,” Reed explained. “We don’t like that perception. So we’ve worked real hard in the last three years to change that perception. And now you hear more and more people saying it’s not the dog pound anymore. It’s the animal shelter. That’s what we like to think of it as, a shelter — a place where we can move them in then move them out as quick as possible.”
This is, he said, perhaps the biggest difference between the current animal shelter and the old one. There is more room in the new facility to keep dogs, and more opportunity to train, house and clean up after the dogs.
The animal shelter is charged with taking in dogs brought to the shelter, and it is the duty of the dog warden to go out and pick up stray dogs.
“That is part of the Ohio Revised Code,” Reed explained. “If a dog is running at large, it’s our responsibility to see that that dog is taken care of, whether it’s returned to the owner or whether we bring it in here. If it’s got a tag, we call the owner and say ‘Hey, we’ve got your dog.’ And I want to make one thing clear. I know it’s hard times, but people need to buy tags for their dogs. By law they are required to license that dog. And, yes, it is to generate money for the county to pay us. But it’s also a vehicle we can use to call in and get the name of the owner of that dog and take it home. That saves them a trip in and saves them money. If I have to bring it back in here, then by policy I have to charge the owner a redemption fee. We try to prevent that. We call it one free ride home.”
Reed said he understands that everybody’s dogs get loose once in a while. But if the problem is habitual, he has to enforce the law, which states people are required to keep their dogs confined on their property.
“That [confinement] can even be verbal,” Reed added. “If the dog has been through an obedience class and the dog is trained to obey its master, then as long as the dog stays on the property, it’s fine.”
It’s when the dog gets off the owner’s property that the trouble starts.
“That’s when the dog is in violation of the Ohio Revised Code,” Reed said.
Reed said the larger facility helps make the shelter’s adoption program more successful. Volunteers are able to come in and help take care of the dogs; walk them, clean them and socialize them. The dogs can also be kept longer. Although the Knox County Animal Shelter is not a no-kill facility, euthanasia is only used as a last resort, or when there is no choice because of health or tempermental reasons.