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SPCA keeps dog warden services in Hamilton County despite takeover bid by sheriff's office

Commissioners approve contract through 2019
Posted at 2:57 PM, Apr 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-04 16:38:33-04

The sheriff’s office is not taking over dog warden duties in Hamilton County – at least not this year, WVXU reported.

County commissioners voted Thursday to contract with the SPCA through the end of 2019 while considering other options.

The county has had a contract with the SPCA for 50 years. But Sheriff Jim Neil, whose office faces $5 million in budget cuts, was looking to take over the $1.8 million operation when the SPCA's contract expired Thursday.

"In a three-month period of time [we'll have] a chart of options in front of us including the sheriff's office, including other options for the county to take a look at how we deliver this service," said Commission President Denise Driehaus. "I frankly think that is fair. I think we're going to need three months to put that together."

WVXU reported that the vote was 2-1 with commission Vice President Stephanie Summerow Dumas dissenting, primarily based on the contract length and the 3 percent increase in the amount of the contract.

"I refuse to commit $1.8 million to an entity that provides no data, no back-up, nothing we can look at," she says. "This is a 50-year contract we've been doing, I think this is a good time to look at things differently."

The new agreement includes requirements for reporting and regular public input sessions.

Neil says his office is better equipped to be the dog warden, and some vocal advocates agreed at last Tuesday’s commissioners meeting.

“There hasn't been a dog fighting charge in Hamilton County in, I think, over a decade. There's dog fighting going on in Cincinnati and they (SPCA) haven't done anything about it,” said attorney Lisa Rabanus.

“Generally with dog fighting you have drugs and you have guns, and so if the dog warden is part of the Sheriff’s Office then you have availability to go from one into the other.”

Stacie Grant is another animal rescue advocate who was pushing for change. Grant has rescue dogs and volunteers regularly. She feels the SPCA isn't accountable, isn't working with rescue groups and isn't sending a message of enforcement.

“I just don't think that there's any visibility right now with the current dog warden as to what's going to happen to people when they abuse an animal, and I think that they feel they can do it with impunity,” Grant said.

“It worries us, it pains us as a community, the rescue community, to know that we can't have a hand in making things better and this is what I think the Sheriff can provide.”

In a letter to the commission, SPCA CEO Jake White said many of the advocates’ allegations are incorrect.

“I stand behind the fantastic results that our team has successfully accomplished,” White said.

The letter points out that the SPCA created the Pet Coalition of Greater Cincinnati last January to work with rescues.

When it comes to transparency, the SPCA says it is just following advice of county attorneys.

But the SPCA admitted it has limitations on policing power, and the sheriff promised to get tough with lawbreakers.