PARKERSBURG - Wood County Sheriff Ken Merritt says he will speak with county officials later this week about whether deputies will have to take over animal control in Wood County.
The Parkersburg Humane Society Monday announced in a letter to the Wood County Commission it planned to lay off three humane officers, effectively removing the agency from county animal control.
Merritt said Tuesday though he had heard about the letter, he had not spoken with county officials about the matter.
"It hasn't yet funneled down to me," he said. "We will have to deal with it. We will be meeting, if not today, then before the week is out."
Merritt said under code he believes the sheriff's department will be held responsible for animal control in the county.
"The way the code is set up, the county commission is responsible, so that probably puts it under our authority," he said. "As far as what will happen or what we will do, we haven't discussed that yet. I don't have the people that I can just replace those three humane officers."
Merritt declined to say whether he would request additional funding from the county, saying those are among the details which must be discussed.
"It's going to be something that we look at and see what we can do, see what is going to be best for the county and the residents," he said.
Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell said the announcement will not affect Parkersburg, at least not immediately.
"Other than a vicious dog that is menacing someone, we've been taking care of our animal control needs already," Newell said, pointing to city programs to control deer, coyotes and geese. "It really depends on what the county commission decides. We will call whoever the county designates to call."
Newell said city police already are responsible for corralling dangerous or stray dogs or other animals during times when the humane society would not be open, such as in the evenings or on weekends. In those instances, which Newell said are relatively rare, police would take the animal to an outside temporary holding pen at the society.
"It is just a handful of times a month, at best," he said. "That is not going to make much of a difference for us."
Newell said ultimately he believes the shake up will be a positive for the county.
"The county commission is at some point going to have to acknowledge that they are required by state law to provide animal control countywide," he said. "I agree with the humane society, that's never been their mission. That's how the county chose to use them."