Officer questions commission over dog warden’s response


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE — The Director of Public Safety for Union City, Ohio and Indiana Mark Ater addressed the Darke County Commission on Thursday during the regular meeting of the board of commissioners.

Ater brought up his concern with the county’s dog warden and where the responsibility lays with dogs running at large. According to Ater, his police department came across a dog that was killing chickens and causing other damage recently and the department was told it would be over an hour before anyone could be there.

Ater said he reviewed the conversation his captain had with the dog warden, “He informed Captain Turner that we are paid by taxpayers and he is not and doesn’t have to respond to the calls that we’re asking him to come to. I guess I’m asking for some clarification because if that’s the case, we need to figure out something in Union City to address the issues that we have.”

Commissioner Aultman said the dog warden is correct. “He is an outside fund. Funded wholly by dog tag sales. He does not get any county money to operate that. That all comes from dog tags and any court fees he receives for a delinquency, somebody paying for the dog tags and donations. That’s how he operates.”

Aultman said the dog warden is working on an after-hours call policy. Previously, there was a policy in place, but Aultman pointed to personnel changes and less staff as some of the issues he is dealing with now.

Ater asked the commissioners who the dog warden’s direct supervisor is. “We are,” said Aultman. Ater shot back, “So, you don’t have a firm understanding of what his responsibilities are day-to-day?”

Aultman said the opinion of the Ohio Attorney General, resulting from a case in Licking County, is that unless a dog at large is attacking livestock, he only has to go around on patrol and pick up those animals. He is also responsible for maintaining the shelter and collecting dog license fees.

Ater said he doesn’t have the ability to put a dog in his cruiser. “There was a huge federal lawsuit where a police department paid millions of dollars to a family because of anaphylactic shock from pet dander, I guess,” said Ater. He added that his officers that have canines have to go through a checklist before they can put people in their cars. Ater continued, “It’s not practical for me to throw a dog in the back of a police cruiser and transport it to the Shelter like he suggested that we do.”

Aultman said, “That’s something that we are working on as a response to see what we need to do to accommodate as we go through some of these changes. From my understanding, the one incident you were able to find the owner and give it back.” Ater responded, “He didn’t give us much of a choice when he gave us an hour-and-a-half ETA to come deal with it. At that point, I’m not just going to let it run loose and continue to kill people’s chicken. It was killing cats yesterday in someone’s backyard. I don’t have the resources to handle it.” He added that if its his responsibility to figure out the resources, he will do that. “It seems like recently, we have been pressed to get him (dog warden) to respond.” Ater said in the past they did not have the issues with the dog warden they are having now.

“We’re working a response to you, Mark. We weren’t able to procure a response for you prior to session,” said Aultman.

The commissioners were asked if the Shelter being operated by an outside fund was standard practice across the state. Aultman said it varies from county-to-county. Some counties are under the county umbrella, in other counties the service is operated from a partnership between the county and outside fund, and others follow what Darke County does and operate strictly from the outside fund.

The commissioner said no taxpayer funding has been used to run the Shelter since the early 2000s when they began operating strictly from the outside fund. By operating this way, the county does not have to take taxpayer funds away from one area to fund the Shelter.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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