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The German shepherd pup sitting alongside Monnett New Winchester Road outside Galion still had his blanket with him when Angie Chandler found him.
“Why in the world would you do that to a pup, I have no clue. No clue,” the Crawford County dog warden said. “It about broke my heart. There’s no reason for that. They love this dog enough to give it its blanket. That’s what really got me. Alongside the road, by the ditch, in the middle of nowhere.”
He was just one of four or five dogs she had found, apparently abandoned, over a two-month period. Like the others, the puppy — and his blanket — ended up at the Humane Society Serving Crawford County’s shelter at 3590 Ohio 98, just north of Bucyrus. He has since been adopted. The dog warden’s office contracts with the humane society to house dogs in its custody.
After rescuing that dog, Chandler took to social media to vent her frustration: “There is never a good or acceptable reason to dump a dog anywhere!” she wrote.
“You take a dog out and dump it, that dog’s been raised in a house, with a family, with people,” Chandler said in an interview. “It doesn’t know how to hunt. It doesn’t know how to take care of itself. It doesn’t know how to stay warm. It doesn’t have a clue where it’s at, and it has absolutely no idea what’s going on around it.”
Marion-Melmore Road has been the scene of two separate incidents within the span of a few weeks, she said — one south of Oceola, and the other to the north, she said. Somebody witnessed a dog being abandoned and got the vehicle’s license plate number — but the witness followed the vehicle instead of staying with the dog.
“So by the time I get out there, I can’t find the dog,” Chandler said. “I don’t know where the dog went. … I can’t press charges if I have no evidence of a crime.”
Owners are liable for abandoned dogs
Being abandoned at the side of the road is traumatic for the dog, and it’s possible the animal could cause a crash, she said. Many owners don’t realize they’re liable if that happens.
“The state of Ohio looks at dogs as property, just as you would a car,” Chandler said. “We use this as an example all the time. If your car does damage to something else, you’re liable for that. If your dog … damages something else, you’re liable for those damages. You have to register your car every year; you have to register your dog every year.”
Rescuing an abandoned dog can be challenging.
“Dogs by instinct, their nature is flight or fight, and we see it every time we go out,” Chandler said. “You either get one that runs from you, or get one that doesn’t like you. It doesn’t know you; why would it like you?”
What’s the best way to find a new home for your dog?
The dumping problem is particularly frustrating because there are so many better avenues available for people who need to get rid of a dog — even if they’re in a hurry.
The humane society’s shelter was the first option she cited.
She acknowledged taking a dog to the shelter has been more difficult than usual since the pandemic hit — at some points this winter, the shelter has been open by appointment only because of staff shortages.
“Some people are too impatient,” she said. “They’ve got to go get rid of the dog right now.”
But while the local shelter accepts only animals from Crawford County, shelters in some surrounding counties will take animals from anywhere, she pointed out.
If people know they’re going to be moving and can’t take the dog with them, they should make plans for the animal’s future. She said she sees plenty of Facebook posts from people who are looking to rehome a dog — and it usually only takes a couple of days.
“Is it the best option? No, but there’s always a way to rehome your dog, short notice,” Chandler said. “There’s no reason to take them out and dump them alongside the road in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.”
People also can call her office, 49-562-4993, for guidance.
“My office really tries to help people with where they’re at right now,” Chandler said. “We don’t take owner surrenders because we don’t have a shelter. But we can guide you in the right direction. …
“With the options that people have nowadays, there’s no reason whatsoever that you can’t hang onto that dog for six or eight hours, until morning, and get it to a shelter somewhere.”
Sometimes, owners want to get rid of a dog because it’s too aggressive, she said.
If the dog is so aggressive the owners can’t handle it and are afraid it would harm a new owner, they should schedule an appointment and have the dog euthanized, Chandler urged. “That sounds harsh, but if you’re scared of your own dog that’s 2 years old and you’ve had it since it was 5 weeks old, who else is going to be able to handle that dog safely?”
Majority of surrendered dogs end up being adopted
Some people have an outdated idea of how the dog warden’s office works.
There was a time when dog wardens euthanized unclaimed pets, but those days are long gone, Chandler said.
Through its contract with the dog warden’s office, Humane Society Serving Crawford County cares for the animals for a specified holding period — three business days if the dog isn’t wearing tags, or if it is but the owner can’t be contacted, 14 days. Then the dogs are surrendered to the humane society and go up for adoption.
“I’m not going to say dogs don’t get put down. If they’re too aggressive and we can’t handle them, we can’t adopt them,” she said. “You can’t get them into rescue if you can’t get them out of a kennel, and that’s what people need to understand.”
But the vast majority of dogs end up being put up for adoption through the humane society. Some adoptable dogs wait six or seven months for the right person to come along — but they don’t get euthanized.
The number of aggressive dogs her office sees has dropped significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Chandler said.
“People are home more; their kids are home. They’re getting a little more socialization, they’re not cooped up and locked up all the time away from people,” she said. “That’s usually where you get an aggressive dog.”
Euthanasia rates are down to “almost nothing” — she estimated 3%.
“And I can tell you every one of those dogs had to be put down,” Chandler said. “It wasn’t because of room, it wasn’t for any reason other than they’re too aggressive or they were too far gone, health-wise.”
Warden’s office takes dogs with tags to their homes the first time
If the dog is wearing its tag, the warden’s office will bring it home the first time it’s picked up. “We won’t even take it to the shelter,” she said.
Dog are supposed to wear a collar with its tags attached to it, but very few people do that, she said: “It’s actually a minor misdemeanor to fail to display the tag on the dog’s collar.”
She’s often told the dog just had a bath and had been put outdoors with no collar to dry.
Across the state, adoption rates are way up, and more dogs are being reclaimed, she said.
Over the last two years, the rate at which stray dogs are reclaimed from her office has gone up 15% to 20%, she said — roughly three-quarters go home. “Which is good; that’s what you want them to do,” she said.