Wood County Commission visits animal shelter

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commission President Wayne Dunn said he was impressed with the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley animal shelter in Washington County.

Wood County officials toured the facility in Washington County on Thursday and today will visit facilities in Upshur and Monongalia counties, exploring options for state-mandated animal control services. They earlier toured the Mason County animal shelter earlier.

The county’s $271,344 contract with the Humane Society of Parkersburg for animal control services expires June 30.

Citing rising costs, humane society officials had requested a 10 percent raise. The commissioners said no.

The humane society then notified the commission as of July 1 it will eliminate its three humane officer posts, taking it out of the animal control business. If the county still wants to contract with the humane society to house animals, the cost would be $202,746.

The county is required by code to provide animal control services relating to dogs and over the years has chosen to contract with the humane society for those services.

Steve Herron, executive director at the Washington County shelter, told Wood County officials he has a staff of 11 and they work closely with the county dog warden at the sheriff’s department. The shelter operates on a $300,000 annual budget.

“Our area here is larger than Wood County in terms of size, but the population is smaller,” Herron said. “We get $48,000 from the Washington County commissioners, and an additional $12,000 that can only be used to help low-income families pay for spay and neuter services for dogs only, cats are not covered,” he said.

The shelter receives $14,400 annually from Marietta for services to the city of Marietta.

Herron said he uses austerity, lots of fundraisers and innovative means to operate on the $300,000 budget.

“I run a very tight ship. I continuously check prices on everything, I get grants whenever possible, and we are constantly fundraising,” Herron said.

The shelter director led the Wood commissioners on a tour of the shelter, showing them intake areas where animals brought in receive medical care and are segregated for several days, get their shots and are checked again before entering the general population and evaluated for adoption. Herron said the shelter also works closely with animal rescue groups.

Herron said of 1,422 dogs were taken in last year, 11 were euthanized, or 0.7 percent. There were 1,582 cats taken in and of those 613 were euthanized, 38 percent.

Of the budget, shelter officials said $66,600 goes for maintenance, utilities and related facility expenses; $89,000 for veterinarian care provided to the animals and $8,800 goes for insurance for the building, vehicles and drivers.

Shelter officials said volunteers are important to their operation.

“So you are getting $48,000 from your county commission compared to us writing a check for almost $300,000 because our humane society looks at it as our dog until it’s adopted or moved out, so we’ll pay for 10, 20, 30 days, whereas Washington County is just covering the mandated period,” said Commissioner Blair Couch. “You’ve been working with a lot of rescues and that’s partially why your euthanization rate is so low.”

Part of the dog and kennel fund pays for dog warden services and some goes to the shelter, officials said.

The commissioners visited the Point Pleasant shelter in Mason County on Monday. It is a county-run facility with a capacity of 40 dogs and 36 cats.

The shelter has three employees and costs the county about $135,000 a year to operate.

“This appears to be a very well-run facility. The manager of the shelter appears to be the one who really makes things happen, with his team, but he is very creative,” Dunn said. “He cuts a lot of costs and is able to run a significant operation for $300,000, the animals are well cared for. It provides an opportunity for us that wasn’t there in Mason County. We don’t really know yet what direction we are going to go in.”