Wright takes over Gallia animal shelter

By Michael Johnson

March 18, 2014

GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County has hired a former dog warden to take over the daily duties at the county’s animal shelter.

The Gallia County Commissioners hired Brenda Wright to take over the day-to-day operations at the Gallia County Animal Shelter, one day after placing two of its employees — Paul Simmers and Jason Harris — on paid administrative leave in connection with the Feb. 14 euthanizations of 11 dogs at the facility in the 100 block of Shawnee Lane.

Simmers is the county’s dog warden while Harris is his former assistant, having been moved from the shelter to a maintenance crew at the Gallia County courthouse. Simmers faces 32 counts of second-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty, while Harris faces 12 counts of the same charges based on an investigation by Gallipolis City Solicitor Adam R. Salisbury.

A third person, Jean L. Daniels, a former county dog warden, was also charged with 13 counts of second-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty.

On Monday, the Gallia County Commissioners issued a statement saying the “use of paid administrative leave and the opportunity to respond to allegations at a pre-disciplinary conference are required by law before any disciplinary action can be taken.”

The hiring of Wright also comes one day after county officials had said Tom Halfhill, the county’s building superintendent, would help oversee the animal shelter operation. Officials also said Jeff Hash had been hired last Thursday to take over as the county’s assistant dog warden, but that he no longer works for the county.

The hiring of Wright, who began her duties at 8 a.m. Tuesday, comes on the recommendation of the Friends of Gallia County’s Animals, a local group that has been working with county officials in finding permanent homes for the shelter’s dog population.

“Mrs. Wright comes highly recommended by the Friends of Gallia County’s Animals,” the county commissioners said in a press release.

Wright served as assistant dog warden in 2012 through February 2013.

“We welcome Mrs. Wright back to our team and ask that all support her in this position,” the commissioners said.

As acting dog warden, Wright will oversee operations at the shelter until the court case involving Simmers is resolved. Pending the outcome of the case, Wright will either become the county’s full-time dog warden or assistant dog warden.

Simmers, Harris and Daniels are to appear in Gallipolis Municipal Court at 1:30 p.m. March 25.