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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

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Ottawa County’s dog warden has returned to work after an extended leave of absence.

The county commissioners hired Patricia Forsyth in late August to temporarily fill in for dog warden Jo Lynn Hetrick.

“She’s been dealing with some health issues,” commissioner Jim Sass said last week regarding Hetrick’s absence.

At the time of Forsyth’s hiring, the commissioners stipulated a $15.25 per hour salary not to exceed 12 weeks, according to board minutes. In early November, they extended her stay again to Nov. 30.

Hetrick returned to the job Monday.

“She’s healthy and she’s back to work,” Sass confirmed on Monday.

Forsyth oversaw operations at the dog shelter on Ohio 163 located in the Riverview complex. She’s also dealt with preparing the department’s 2013 budget process with the assistance of the staff, Sass said.

The office is self-supporting, operating on users’ fees, fines, penalties and donations. The monies make up the dog and kennel fund and are used to buy supplies for dogs, maintain kennels and trucks as well as pay utilities and staff salaries.

Hetrick returns as the office struggles with a major issue. During her departure, the department began re-evaluating its euthanasia policy at the shelter, according to Sass.

National euthanasia statistics are difficult to monitor because animal care and control agencies are not uniformly required to keep statistics on the number of those taken in, adopted, euthanized or reclaimed, the American Humane Society states on his website.

The diligence of animal rights’ groups prompted the local review, the commissioner said.

When necessary, dogs at the Ottawa County Dog Shelter are put sleep using a carbon monoxide room.

Some activists insist that is a crueler death than lethal injection.

Consequently, the commissioners and the interim dog warden have been exploring the costs of lethal injection.

“The law allows us to use this method (carbon monoxide). But we decided to look at the process and explore the costs of lethal injection. We contacted area veterinarians and others,” Sass said. “I believe we are still waiting for those numbers to come in.”

Sass noted that both he and commissioners Steve Arndt reviewed the commercially-built carbon monoxide chamber. One dog that was put down had been brought in by a local family. The animal had extreme behavior problems, especially in the aftermath of storms or other loud noises, and could not be controlled, Sass explained.

Euthanasia is the “last resort” for animals here, Sass said.

Shelter staffers are diligent about trying to place the animals brought to the site. The shelter operates a Facebook page, a website through petfinder.com that chronicles the animals available and they work with area adoption organizations to promote animal placements.

“They do what they can to try to prevent this. Like I said, the euthanasia is the last resort,” Sass said.

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