County exploring options for animal control

PARKERSBURG – Wood County Commissioner Blair Couch reported Thursday several counties have responded to requests for information on how they meet state code requirements for animal control services in their respective counties, and Wood County officials will be exploring options.

The county is required by state code to provide animal control services for dogs. The county has traditionally contracted with the the Humane Society of Parkersburg for those services and is paying more than $271,000 annually for those services. The current contract expires at the end of June.

Last week, the county was notified as of July 1 the agency plans to eliminate three humane officer positions, thus effectively taking them out of the animal control business. No one from the society attended last week’s meeting when the commissioners discussed the notification letter. The commissioners earlier denied a requested 10 percent funding increase from the society for next year.

Couch volunteered to put out a request for information to other counties. He reported 13 counties responded, including some counties that share the responsibilities, some with cities within their counties and with neighboring counties.

“We received responses from Putnam, Mercer, Preston, Wayne, Tucker, Monongahela, Berkeley and others,” Couch said.

Shelter officials said their main mission is not to provide animal control services, but to provide a shelter for the community’s unwanted animals.

“I think we need to take all the counties that replied and divide up the list among us. We can each review some and look at what their operations entail, and look at the costs involved,” Couch said.

Officials agreed after deciding which might be viable options, they would decide which ones to visit to see operations.

“I think we need to look at some of the consolidated ones, in some cases they are serving areas even larger than Wood County,” Couch said.

“We can visit the ones we have narrowed down and we will have the humane officers at the society available until the end of June,” Commissioner Wayne Dunn said. Commissioners said they have no plans to meet with the sheriff about additional responsibilities for his officer.

The sheriff’s department has a deputy assigned as humane officer as required by code. The sheriff’s department humane office is responsible for investigating compliant in the unincorporated areas of animal abuse/cruelty/neglect and that position would be unaffected by any move by the society as it is mandated by state code under the sheriff’s department.

“We just need to follow the mandates of state code, those services, which relate only to animal control of dogs,” Couch said. “There are a lot of other counties in West Virginia that provide the services required by code and get the job done.”

“We just need to get something new in place by July 1,” Dunn said. “We need to keep the services and keep the costs down.”