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Pet’s death inspires woman to advocate changes

The heart-breaking loss of a family pet has prompted one woman to push for what she sees are needed changes at the Lawrence County Dog Pound.

Ruth Ann DeLong proposed to the Lawrence County Commissioners at their regular Thursday meeting that significant updates be made to the way the pound communicates about lost dogs after her father’s black Labrador was mistakenly euthanized in early July.

“I’m not here to discuss what happened. I’m here to advocate for changes,” DeLong told the commission. “I have given this a lot of thought. People should have the opportunity to download information pertaining to their pet. This is not an animal, it is a pet.”

DeLong wants to see a Web site developed for the pound that would tell pet owners what they should do if they lose their pets with an e-mail address which owners could access to download photos of the lost dog.

“This would require the shelter to check e-mails daily and print all emails and file them by date,” the proposal states. “The shelter will download pictures of all dogs picked up to the Web site. Information shall be attached including location animal was found, pick up date, description of dog, time. Attach dog tag number with picture.”

Also suggested is offering pet owners the option to complete a form about their pet that gives a physical description of the animal, owner’s name and contact information including e-mail address, cell phone and landline phone numbers, plus contact information for up to three more family members or friends.

“Pet owners have the right to have the opportunity to claim their pets,” she said.

DeLong also offered ways to implement the changes with the minimum amount of money. Ohio University could be a resource for Web site design and a local Internet company could donate service.

She would also like to see a dog shelter council created, possibly made up of 4-H clubs, other outdoor organizations and community volunteers.

“The Coon Hunters are willing to be part of the council,” she said.

The council would establish policies for the shelter, “to police the care and integrity of the shelter,” DeLong said. “We need a commitment from the commissioners. It takes a commitment of policy and procedures put in place. I’m willing to volunteer my time.”

Commissioner Jason Stephens offered his apologies to DeLong about the death of her father’s dog.

“He looked like a dog I grew up with,” Stephens said. “The dog pound has a very tough task. There is one full-time dog warden and two part-time assistant dog wardens. We get a lot of concerns about loose dogs. It is important to recognize both sides.”

That compares to staffing five years ago when there were five full-time workers at the dog pound.

“We have to balance policy with manpower and budget,” he said.

However, both Stephens and Commissioner Doug Malone agreed that DeLong’s proposal was worth studying.

“Animals are precious,” Malone said. “I’ve known the dog warden for years. He is an animal lover. I think the commissioners are willing to work on this.”