By Jody Norwood
Tribune-Courier News Editor
BENTON – Concern over the county animal shelter adopting out dogs with a history of biting is prompting a review of policies.
“We did have a biter,” said Marshall County Judge Executive Mike Miller. “It was adopted out and the lady brought it back.”
Dog bite complaints have remained about average for this time of year, according to the Marshall County Health Department. A spokesperson did note they have had multiple complaints of dogs who bite being adopted out of the animal shelter multiple times.
In cases of dog bites, pet owners must present the health department with proof of rabies vaccination within 10 days of the incident. If not, the incident is turned over to the County Attorney’s office, which can result in montary penalties.
“I just want to be very cautious,” Miller said. “If a dog has bitten someone, I want to be certain before we adopt it out. We’re looking at some new rules.”
The Board of Health has recommended the policy of not adopting out any dogs with a known history of biting, regardless of breed.
The county is currently considering ways to update its policies for handling animals, both those at the animal shelter and those collected around the county.
County Attorney Jeff Edwards said the ordinance was based on ones used by Kenton County.
“Kenton County has four full-time animal control officers,” Edwards said. “This is the most straight forward ordinance that I could come up with. It’s hard to fit it in a pigeon hole. This is broad enough. It might not cover every situation, but at least it would give us some guidelines.”
According to Miller, the ordinance also has provisions for dogs that bite other animals or humans more than once.
“Dogs that bite, once they do, they’re hard to do anything with,” Miller said. “Our people do a very good job with the resources they have, but we still get a tremendous amount of animals compared to other counties.”
Commissioner Misti Drew said much of the issue could be corrected with proper training.
“That’s one of the reasons why I like what the state has done in their recommendations,” Drew said. “They’re having a 40 hour training class. Any animals, if you go at them the wrong way, they might bite you. They’re not a vicious animal just because they might try to defend themselves.”
Drew advocated training for animal control officers in light of recent policy changes at the animal shelter, along with routing calls for animal control through dispatch.
In a recent meeting with animal control officers, county officials and animal shelter employees, Miller also questioned why the shelter was not adopting cats out unless they were specifically to be kept indoors. Commissioner Terry Anderson also quesitoned the policy.
“If a person says that they’re going to use it as a house cat, what insurance is there that this is going to happen?” Anderson asked. “It can be gone in five minutes or five days. My wife wanted one for her barn. We keep cat food in the loft. She was told she couldn’t have them unless she agreed to keep them in the house.”
Shelter employee Misti Wagner said “barn cats” made it difficult to verify the animals had been spayed or neutered.
“Any cat, by nature, is not going to stay where you put him,” Wagner said. “They will try to get back where they came from.”
Wagner said the shelter looked at each case of vicious dogs individually.
“If they bite at the shelter, we have them euthanized,” Wagner said. “Biting when it’s being dragged by a pole and biting when it’s calm in a shelter situation are two different things.”