Officials chew over countywide humane solutions

By Peter H. Milliken


City and Mahoning County officials tried Wednesday to determine who would assume the duties of humane agent if Animal Charity left that countywide role because of its budget constraints.

Boardman philanthropists Anthony and Mary Lariccia said Wednesday that they will provide $50,000 annually to Animal Charity until its financial problems are resolved. But the couple want humane services that had been curtailed Monday restored.

Gary Pilcher, Animal Charity’s board chairman, expects a meeting soon to bring a humane agent back to the agency.

Dave Nelson, county dog warden, said his current county role gives him jurisdiction to enforce laws against neglect or abuse of dogs.

If he were designated as a humane agent, he would have protective authority over all animals, he added.

Mayor Jay Williams would have the authority to designate him as city humane agent and county Probate Judge Mark Belinky would have the authority to designate him in that capacity for the county, he said.

Williams did not respond to a request for comment.

If a law-enforcement agency rescues a neglected or abused dog in the interim before a new humane agent is designated, the dog would be taken to the county dog pound, Nelson said.

City and county officials are trying to determine where other types of animals would go if law enforcement agencies make an emergency rescue, he said.

Nelson, who has full humane agent training and arrest authority, was the humane agent at Animal Charity between 1988 and 2005 before he joined the county dog warden’s office.

“It’s a lot of work, and Animal Charity has done a great job over the years on doing this,” he said of the humane agent function.

Nelson said he hopes a humane agent can be restored soon because abuse and neglect calls take on special urgency in winter weather.

When Animal Charity performed the humane agent duties, the city supplied $20,000 annually for that service, but the county government supplied no money for it. Animal Charity subsidized its humane agent function through its spay and neuter clinic and private donations.

Judge Belinky said he believes an animal-welfare agency must legally approach him and ask him to appoint a humane agent with the necessary law enforcement and animal-care training, and that he doesn’t believe he can initiate the appointment himself.

No animal welfare agency has approached him yet with any such request this week, he said.

“We ought to get people who are concerned about these issues together and try to put our heads together as to the best way to approach it,” Judge Belinky said. “I’m concerned. I think you need a humane agent.”

Newly elected county Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said she would like to see someone who already has the needed training and credentials appointed as a humane agent and housed at the county dog pound on Industrial Road.

Using that strategy, “We could resolve two issues and have everything run out of one organization and one building,” Righetti said.

She added, however, she believes the additional duties of humane agent would be overwhelming if they were assigned to Nelson on top of his responsibilities as dog warden.

Righetti said she wasn’t sure if the county could afford to contribute money to support the activities of the humane agent.

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