Dog Warden office employee terminated for alleged theft, mistreatment of animals


By Justin Wier

jwier@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A former employee with the Mahoning County Dog Warden’s office who faces criminal charges in the theft of money while in office was fired after a pre-disciplinary hearing.

Richard Tunison, 41, faces two felony counts of theft in office after accusations he pocketed money people intended to pay in fees.

A memo written by Dog Warden Dianne Fry cites video evidence of Tunison mistreating animals.

The former veterinary technician neglected to feed dogs and provide them with medication and he improperly performed euthanasia on at least four dogs, Fry wrote.

The county commissioners terminated Tunison at last week’s meeting.

A video shows Tunison picking a dog up by the neck with a catch pole and slamming it into the table. It took the dog 45 minutes to die, Fry wrote.

Euthanasia should take about five minutes, her memo states.

Three other dogs took between 30 minutes and an hour to die, according to the memo, which states the video shows Tunison peering in to check on the dogs.

“[One] dog you left lying dead on the floor without informing anyone until the dog was found by another kennel worker on Sunday evening upon entering the room,” the memo states.

Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said the commissioners have turned the case over to the prosecutor’s office.

Traficanti said he was disappointed with the things he saw.

“This never should have happened,” Traficanti said. “It is beyond the bounds of basic decency.”

Fry said her agency has put procedures in place to make sure nothing like this will happen again.

Tunison was a supervisor and had Fry’s full trust before the theft allegations arose. “Nobody is allowed to work alone anymore,” Fry said.

Two employees will supervise all euthanizations and at least two people will be involved in all decisions to put dogs down.

Fry said she didn’t realize Tunison had went against the agency’s euthanization protocol until after he was placed on leave after the theft-in-office charges. She went back as far as surveillance footage allowed and documented four cases where he did not follow that protocol.

Once she was aware of the behavior, Fry said she initiated the proper process to address the behavior with the county.

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