Several police departments agree: The county dog warden is hard to catch.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NEWTON FALLS -- Jill Verina needed someone to handle a stray dog, but said she couldn't get help.
A large stray showed up on the back porch of her Caprice Drive home about 5 p.m. Nov. 7, the Newton Township woman said.
It wouldn't leave.
"This dog was about 45 pounds and ripped my screen," Verina said. "I have two little children and I was worried about them. I didn't know if this dog was sick or mean, so I called the police department."
Verina said a Newton Falls officer came to her home and told her he would try to contact the Trumbull County dog warden.
The dog warden's office closes at 4:30 p.m., but an assistant dog warden is to be on call after hours.
Amber Stiles, a police dispatcher at Newton Falls, called for the assistant on call that night. The woman who answered the phone told Stiles he wasn't home.
Stiles said she left a message, but no one returned the call.
Robert Campana, the dog warden, said he was told that no message was left, so the assistant dog warden did not know whom to call.
That wasn't the end of it, Verina said.
"I left messages at the dog warden's office for four days. No one ever called me back. I had nowhere to turn," the woman said.
"I am from Lake County and I called the Lake County Humane Society and they found a home for the dog, so I put the dog in my truck and drove to Lake County."
Verina isn't the only one who thinks the dog warden is hard to catch.
Other areas: Officers in Warren Township, Newton Falls, Champion, Cortland and Brookfield say they've had problems for years trying to get someone to respond to calls.
Robert Campana, the dog warden, said, "We don't work 24 hours."
County Commissioner Michael O'Brien said an assistant dog warden is to be on call 24 hours a day. The dog warden works for the commissioners.
"They can use discretion on what calls they go out on but they are to respond," O'Brien said.
"This is unacceptable."
Campana, who earns $42,500 a year, said he's in charge of administrative duties at the office and does not go out on calls. O'Brien said that because of union contracts, the dog warden is not allowed to handle calls.
The secretary at the dog warden's office said exact logs of calls are not kept by the office, but she had a stack of papers documenting each of the 11 calls handled so far in November.
The assistant dog wardens answer calls and are responsible for cleaning the kennel and euthanizing dogs if a home is not found for them after 72 hours.
Campana said that when the office is closed, the assistant dog wardens respond to calls only if someone has been bitten or if a dog has been injured.
What police said: "I think it would be better to get a stray dog removed before someone gets bit," said Lt. Mark Reese of Warren Township. "It's always a battle to get someone from the dog warden's office out here. This is not something new."
Steve Lamantia, Howland police chief, said he has had no problem. The dog warden's office is on Anderson Drive in the township.
Brookfield Chief Dan Faustino, however, said that if the dog warden's office had responded to an episode in his township earlier this year, one of his officers may not have had to shoot and kill a resident's loose dog.
It was unknown at the time if the dog had rabies. "Police officers are not trained to handle stray animals," Faustino said.
Robert Carlson, Newton Falls police chief, said he has officers who have worked for the department for 10 years and they've never seen anyone from the dog warden's office.
"I wish someone would look into this and correct the problem," Carlson said.
O'Brien said he'll investigate. "No one complained to me, but I am going to look into this," he said.