Humane agent petition denied

By Alexandra Newman - [email protected]

SIDNEY — A petition to appoint another humane agent in the county was denied Friday in the probate division of the Shelby County Common Pleas Court.

In attempting to grow the Shelby County Humane Society, Keri Hickman, of Anna, recently filed paperwork in order to be appointed a county humane agent.

Probate Court Judge William Zimmerman has the authority to appoint someone as a humane agent, but a hearing was called to hear all the opinions on the matter.

“We have no information to suggest the applicant is not qualified, the issue is whether this additional humane agent is necessary,” Shelby County Prosecutor Tim Sell said.

He said, this person may be distracting, and take away from the services already offered to deal with the county’s animals.

The Shelby County Commissioners would be the entity required to pay Hickman in the position as a humane agent.

“In my role as county commissioner I am tasked with maximizing the county’s resources and insuring the welfare of all the county employees,” Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann said. “The creation of a county humane society is just one more unfunded mandate in the county.”

I do not doubt their love for animals, or desire to help them in some way, she said.

“Currently all humane calls are handled by one entity – the Shelby County Animal Shelter,” Ehemann said. “While some persons may believe it’s helpful to have multiple agencies. … Will both agencies be called for the same situations – wasting limited resources? Will we have agencies pinned against each other by the public? I believe having multiple agencies will cause confusion, and problems for both entities.”

There are currently three humane agents employed by the sheriff’s office/animal shelter.

Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputy Kelly Ward, who is the Shelby County dog warden, spoke Friday as to all the complaints the current animal shelter staff has been able to handle successfully, and the helpfulness her peace officer training has had while she’s out on the job as a humane officer.

She said she finds more respect is given to her in tough situations because of her law enforcement role, and her knowledge of Ohio law has proven to be helpful.

She also addressed a big reason the shelter is so successful. The Shelby County Animal Resource Foundation, or SCARF, gives the money they raise to help with costs associated with taking care of the animals at the shelter.

“They give funds for veterinary care, food, cleaning supplies, help with adoption events, and other needed things. They’ve greatly assisted in daily operations at the shelter. They’ve made it possible to find forever homes for dogs and cats. And it’s through these actions I think the shelter has been able to find homes for hundreds of animals every year,” Ward said.

Nicole Laber, a volunteer with SCARF, explained in court Friday, since their beginning in 2012 they’ve raised many tens of thousands of dollars for the shelter and it’s animals. She said how her organization’s records are all open and they’ve been audited and checked by outside sources numerous times, citing the incident when the previous organizer of the Shelby County Humaine Society was charged with, according to court records, “theft in office” for improper use of funds collected by the organiztion.

SCARF’s main and only goal is to raise money to support the animal shelter, and is currently in the process of trying to raise funds for a brand new shelter, Laber said.

“Our county is operating on the same budget as in 2001, so we could have not gotten along without the help from SCARF,” Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart said. “I don’t want to make this about money, but there is only so much to go around.”

Lenhart referenced the building campaign of SCARF and the one that is being held by the humane society as well.

“I would much rather see us work as a team rather than splinter off,” he said. “I also think about the existing need. We are meeting the existing need for such services.”

Lenhart said, “As I see it: If it’s not broke, you probably shouldn’t fit it.”

Judge Zimmerman then asked if Hickman was in attendance to speak about her petition, but she was not. He then ruled to deny the request for her appointment as a humane agent.

“The court finds the sheriff’s department, with their three agents, are meeting the requirements of what is needed in the county, along with their help from SCARF,” Zimmerman said. “Appointment of Miss. Hickman as an agent would be a duplication of services.”

By Alexandra Newman

[email protected]

Reach this writer at 937-538-4825; Follow the SDN on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @sidneydailynews

Reach this writer at 937-538-4825; Follow the SDN on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @sidneydailynews