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Thankfully, county gone to the dogs

After 24 years as the county dog warden, Bill Click was ready to call it quits last year. The now 67-year-old was simply worn down.

The exhaustion was evidenced in the lines on his suntanned face and the pained look in his eyes. As if 2011 hadn’t been tough enough, by May or so, 2012 was shaping up to be the same.

There was only one reason why.

You see, one part of Click’s job is operating the Lawrence County Animal Shelter. A painful side element of that being, because there simply isn’t anywhere to put them, stray animals that can’t be placed in a home have to be euthanized.

Not just a few animals. Hundreds of them.

It is something Click says is one of the most difficult things you will do in life and it had pushed him to the breaking point.

“I was ready to retire,” Click said. “It is just more than you can bear.”

The shelter was adopting out more dogs than the other southern Ohio shelters, Click says, but the problem was they were bringing in more too and the shelter just didn’t have the space.

In 2011, the shelter euthanized 1,650 dogs, a number that still makes Click cringe. More than 80 percent of the animals brought to the shelter were killed, by far the highest rate in Ohio that year and more than double the state average of 30 percent. It looked like 2012 was headed for the same results.

Then everything changed.

It is a simple question — What caused the drastic reversal? — for which Click has just as simple of an answer.

“I’ll put it in two words. Les Boggs,” he said referring to the county commissioner. “He asked me to turn it around and start putting the emphasis on adoption instead of euthanasia. I told him it would be hard, but that we would find a way. And we did.”

The dog shelter only euthanized 694 animals last year, still a high number but less than half than the year before. Most of those came early in the year before the focus shift.

So far in 2013, no strays have been euthanized. Only eight animals have been put to sleep and those were ones that were brought in for medical reasons by the owners. More than 200 animals have been adopted out or gone to rescue agencies that work to find the animals homes across the east coast.

“It’s unbelievable. I am seeing it happen and it is still hard to believe,” he said. “It is amazing. There really are some good people in the world.”

For Click, two of those people are Missy Coburn and Kelli Fuhr. The volunteers help with operating the shelter, overall logistics and the administration of finding the animals homes.

“They are spending their own money, gas, own time and using their own vehicles, just to help these dogs. Without Missy and Kelli, there is no way I could get this done,” he said. “A lot of people talk about wanting to help animals but don’t do anything. These two are the real deal working to get it done.”

Every dog is now listed on the Internet with a photograph, with sites like Petfinder being one of the tools, Click said.

The newspaper urged the dog warden to do more, something Click was already doing, but he continued to ramp it up. We have tried to be a partner as well with advertising and promotion of the animals in need of homes.

Click’s success over the past year or so has been impressive, to say the least. But of course there is always more that can be done, much of which falls on citizens.

Click has three key pieces of advice for pet owners: Keep your pet safe at home, spay and neuter your animals and keep your dogs licensed.

“Those three things will make it a perfect world for dogs,” he said.

It may not be there yet but it is certainly better than two years ago and the future looks much brighter for Click and the stray dogs of Lawrence County.


Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.