POINT PLEASANT — Issues at the Mason County Animal Shelter were once again front and center for the Mason County Commission this week, but now there seems to be a consensus between commissioners and animal advocates that things are improving.
“We know we’ve had some problems up there,” Commissioner Rick Handley said to those gathered on Thursday for the commission’s regular meeting. “We know that we’ve corrected some of the situation up there, so we’ve got a plan going forward and part of the plan, I hope, involves you all (the volunteers). We have made it known to people we are volunteer friendly…from here on out. I was hoping we were before but evidently sometimes we weren’t.”
Handley was referring to complaints from members of the community who told commissioners they attempted to volunteer at the shelter but were reportedly turned away.
“I think it will be positive from here on out,” Handley said.
Handley also addressed the physical shape of the building, saying cleaning and painting needed done. He explained the commission had made contact with the Lakin Correctional Facility to arrange for prisoners to do community service at the shelter to possibly assist with these issues. There was a discussion between Commissioner Sam Nibert and volunteers about proper cleaning being a way to stop the spread of disease, especially among cats.
“We’re looking at this as a new beginning for our animal shelter,” Handley said. “So we learn from our mistakes and are looking forward to moving on.”
Earlier this month, commissioners accepted the resignations of the former full time dog warden and shelter office manager for other employment opportunities. Commissioners reported at their meeting this week that Judy Oliver, who was the shelter manager several years before, had been hired to run the office. Commissioner Tracy Doolittle cited Oliver’s past experience as an asset when it comes to understanding animal care, vaccinations and other duties that arise with running a shelter. Jessica Hall will begin Monday as the new dog warden and county employee Tommy Wilson will take on part-time dog warden duties.
Doolittle said she felt this staff of one full-time dog warden, a part-time office manager and part-time dog warden was sufficient for the shelter’s current population of two dogs and 11 cats. The commissioners each extended invitations to those gathered at the meeting to volunteer at the shelter and said they welcomed rescues and those who transport animals to rescues.
Rescue volunteer and animal advocate Carey Riffle of Mason County, brought to the commissioners’ attention that back in 2015 a $225 donation was reportedly made to the Town and Country Vet Clinic for the shelter to use to provide vaccinations and medical care for animals. Riffle said to her knowledge the $225 had never been used. She mentioned Mike Grubb, a local resident, also did a recent fundraiser and was wishing to put that money at Town and Country Vet Clinic for similar use. Riffle wanted commissioners to be aware the funds were there and available and could be used for flea prevention as well. All volunteers stressed the animals should be vaccinated and treated on the way into the shelter, not on the way out, with one person attending the meeting saying that had happened to her recently when she adopted two cats from the shelter. She said the cats were vaccinated on the way out of the shelter and each died days later.
County Administrator John Gerlach also asked if the volunteers had any luck with adopting out feral cats, that he had heard other counties had deemed them “unadoptable.” Riffle said there were rescues that worked with feral cats and they could be adopted. Gerlach also offered to get the volunteers in touch with the Operation Fancy Free group out of Jackson County which wanted to established a spay/neuter release program in Mason County to deal with the stray cat population.
“You’ve got a committed group here,” Riffle said. “We want to help.”
Nibert suggested getting the public educated on spaying and neutering pets and perhaps using money gained by fundraisers to host types of low-cost clinics. Volunteers seemed receptive to doing fundraisers and involving different organizations to benefit the local animal population.
“Let’s get these (new) people in there (at the shelter), give them a couple of weeks and we’re going to plan an open house,” Doolittle said. “It’s your shelter as much as anybody’s…it’s a public shelter. Go up and see Judy (Oliver), she’s there 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., she’ll welcome any volunteers. I hope you see a different atmosphere.”
Members of the public gathered at the meeting expressed they had already seen an improvement.
Nibert also announced the shelter had received a grant to get cameras on the property. Doolitle added Oliver was also taking inventory of supplies to know what was needed and what was not, and she stressed the commission wanted transparency in this situation. She asked all those gathered that if they had a problem in the future with the shelter to “please” personally contact one of the commissioners.
Both sides agreed the “communication was open” at the conclusion of the discussion.
“I think we’re on the right track,” Nibert said.
“Let’s look forward in two or three weeks to an open house,” Doolittle said. “This is a new shelter.”
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.