Dog warden gets help

An overwhelming number of surrendered, stray and unlicensed dogs in Washington County has led to the need for a second county dog warden.

Washington County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Russell Blamble was hired in April to assist current full-time county dog warden and Washington County Deputy Kelly McGilton on a part-time basis.

Blamble graduated from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy at Washington State Community College in 2011 and previously worked as a patrolman for the New Matamoras Police Department, he said.

“I just love dogs so it seems like a natural fit,” said Blamble, 22, of St. Marys, W.Va.

He has two dogs of his own-a German Shepard and a Chihuahua, he said.

Blamble began training with the sheriff’s office as a road deputy first, so he would be able to provide backup when needed, he explained. Now he is in his third week of dog warden training and has already issued four citations for unlicensed dogs and investigated two animal welfare complaints.

“He’s already making a difference in the community,” said McGilton.

The idea of hiring a second part-time dog warden was first discussed by the Washington County Commissioners more than a year ago to help offset the 10 to 20 hours of overtime that McGilton has been putting in every week.

“It’s been non-stop,” said McGilton, who took over the role as county dog warden in October 2011 when the former warden went on sick leave and then retired.

McGilton has already brought 255 stray, surrendered or neglected dogs to the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley this year-more than a dog a day, she said.

On June 14, two complaint calls led to McGilton confiscating 26 pets from a Fearing Township home and six dogs from a Reno home, she said. The raids came on Blamble’s first day of training, but after his shift had ended, she said.

At 2450 Pleasant Ridge Road, several outside dogs were living in their own feces, with unsanitary water. Obtaining a search warrant, McGilton found several pets inside the home, including cats, rabbits, birds and more dogs, also living in deplorable conditions, she said.

The home’s residents-Teresa Luke, Ella Newlon and John Allen Jr.-were all charged with a second-degree misdemeanor count of animal cruelty and issued citations for failure to register a dog.

That same day McGilton rescued six purebred poodles from 60 Wrights Road-a home owned by Cynthia Noland. However, Noland had been living an hour away in West Virginia and was visiting the dogs only sporadically to provide food and water, said McGilton.

When McGilton obtained a search warrant and took the dogs, it had been three days since Noland’s last visit and the dogs had no food or water, she said.

“She literally abandoned those dogs,” said McGilton.

Noland was charged with a second-degree misdemeanor count of animal cruelty and cited for failing to register the dogs, she said.

Because of the large confiscations and because summer typically causes an influx of surrendered and stray pets, the humane society is over capacity, said shelter manager Steve Herron.

“We’re hurting real bad. I have floor cages set up for some of the dogs,” he said.

Herron said the shelter is currently running adoption specials on dogs to help them find homes more quickly.

For the month of July, the adoption fee for fixed pit bulls is $40 and the fee for unaltered pit bulls is $70. All other dogs have a $60 adoption fee for altered dogs and $70 for unaltered, he said. Typically, there is a $125 adoption fee for dogs, regardless if they have been fixed or not, said Herron.

The fee for unaltered dogs includes a certificate to help cover the cost of spaying or neutering, he said.

Once Blamble is trained, he will alternate weeks, spending one 40-hour week doing dog warden duties and the next 40-hour week with the sheriff’s office security and transport division, he said.

Blamble’s pay rate -$15 an hour- is for both jobs and is based on the WCSO’s deputy pay scale. For his work as a dog warden, Blamble will be paid from the county’s dog and kennel fund, just as McGilton is. Much of that fund is comprised of money collected from dog tag sales, said McGilton.

McGilton’s regular rate is $23.14 per hour and her overtime rate is $34.71 per hour.

Enforcing dog tag registration is mainly where there is a high need for a second dog warden, added McGilton.

Currently there are more than 1,000 dogs in Washington County that the sheriff’s office knows to be unregistered based on last year’s registrations, said Blamble.

Slowly but surely, Blamble has been making a dent in these cases-getting people to register their dogs or citing them for failure to do so.

“The main purpose of tagging these dogs is a tax that goes into the kennel fund to help care for county dogs,” said McGilton. “But also when I find a dog running stray that’s tagged, I’m able to take that dog home.”