What is HELP FIDO?

Humane Education Leads to Progress
For Informed Dog Owners

Vision Statement: We envision a society free from discrimination, where responsibility, education, love and compassion allow humans to fully respect and understand man's best friend.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon Retires After 22-year Reign of Death

This month, dogs and dog lovers all over the land are singing the Munchkins’ happy tune….”Ding Dong…!” First, Dorothy’s house landed smack dab on top of the Wicked Witch of the East with Jackie Thompson’s recall from Whitehall City Council earlier this month. Now, the Wicked Witch of the West (er, well…Northwest-ish) has all but completely melted, as Lucas County dog warden Tom Skeldon submitted a letter of resignation on November 19! His official retirement date will be January 31, 2010, however he plans to use leftover vacation time for the remainder of his employment, making the end of December his last day at the pound.

Now to give you some background on this beast. The departure of Skeldon from his 22-year position as Lucas County’s Chief Dog Warden has been over a year in the making. Last October, a petition with the signatures of over 3000 concerned Toledo-area residents was submitted, calling for his removal as the county’s head of animal control. Since then, Skeldon has been blamed for the wrongful deaths of 2 family pets. In February 2009, a 10-pound Pomeranian that was outside on its front porch waiting to go back inside, was shot by a deputy dog warden’s tranquilizer gun and later died. Then in August, a Chow named Bear got loose from his house on a Sunday evening, was hit by a car, and ran off. Though his family searched the area for him and looked at the pound, they couldn’t find him; however, they were told they had 3 days before he would be put down, should he come into the pound. The dog was found by police Tuesday night, and the dog warden called the family Wednesday morning to notify them that Bear had been put to sleep. The dog warden alleges that this action was taken because the emergency vet recommended it was the humane thing to do, due to the dog’s injuries. Bear’s injuries consisted of a broken leg. The owners had no opportunity to make a decision or to see their family member again.

Of course, Tom Skeldon has been most often criticized for his procedures of operation within the dog shelter. He has come under heavy fire from many animal advocacy groups, including HELP FIDO, but one of his biggest critics is County Commissioner Ben Konop. Konop, like many of us, finds the warden’s policies and actions completely unacceptable. From his statements, he seems to be both outraged and embarrassed by the pound’s astronomical euthanization rate (77%) and low adoption rate (13%), especially since Wood County has an adoption rate of 80%. Only 160 dogs have been adopted out in the last two years. Last year’s death toll was a staggering 2,483 dogs. So far this year, Skeldon’s office has killed 1,848.

In addition to this general lack of effort to place adoptable animals in homes, Tom Skeldon is known for his particularly ruthless bias against bully breeds, promoting discrimination against them and seemingly carrying out some sort of personal vendetta. He refused to adopt out any pit bulls or surrender them to rescue groups, instead euthanizing any that came through his doors. Since 2007, 400 puppies (all breeds) have been euthanized, 183 of which were apparently healthy (another fact that his critics took issue with). Half of the 400 puppies were pit bulls (or what Tom Skeldon considers a pit bull). This year alone, the dog warden's office has killed at least 932 pit bulls or pit bull mixes, including 46 pit bull puppies, regardless of age. Obviously the puppy-killing in general is ludicrous, since everyone knows puppies are so easily adopted. And Skeldon’s pit bull policy is ridiculous. Not only is it disheartening that he was judging solely on breed/type and not history, health, behavior, or temperament, but there's a good chance he was also incorrectly identifying many non-pit bull dogs as pit bulls.

If this weren’t bad enough, pit bulls aren’t the only breed Skeldon discriminates against. He has said “We’ll adopt out a good Rottweiler”, but he refused to place Rotties in the adoption area for the general public because they supposedly get “gangbangers” who come through kicking the cages, looking for a mean dog. While this may be a valid concern, not only did Skeldon’s description and choice of words land him in a different pot of hot water, but it may explain why Rottweilers are the 6th highest breed on the pound’s kill list this year. As of October, the Rottie death toll was 60. To top it all off, Skeldon has also been accused of not vaccinating dogs that come into the shelter, with no regard for the prevention of the spread of disease, and he refused to work with all-breed rescues. The only group Skeldon would work with is the Toledo Area Humane Society (TAHS). Even so, TAHS couldn’t get Skeldon to give them enough dogs, and they have room for more, so they had to pull from surrounding counties such as Hardin, Carroll, Franklin, and Montgomery. WHAT??!

Last week Commissioner Konop proposed that Skeldon be removed from office, but he was out-voted by fellow Commissioners Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak (Tom Skeldon’s first cousin). Konop says that Skeldon is doing the right thing by resigning; however, this has not softened his views on the dog warden. Konop wants him to step down immediately and says “I am not comfortable with him as our dog warden for even another day.” He plans to introduce a motion to have Skeldon dismissed immediately, and if that fails, he will attempt to have Skeldon suspended until his official date of retirement. Go Commissioner Konop!

Bonnie Mitchell, the current Dog Pound Manager, will act as the interim dog warden as Skeldon moves into retirement and until a permanent replacement is found. While this is a concern, since she must have been an integral part of Skeldon’s methods of operation at the pound (read: part of the problem), Commissioner Konop is not a fan of her stepping in as interim dog warden, and he hopefully, possibly, can find a better solution.

All in all, this is why HELP FIDO is JUMPING FOR JOY at the news of Tom Skeldon’s resignation! Judging from his decisions and practices while dog warden, one might conclude that Tom Skeldon finds some sort of sick pleasure or satisfaction in killing the hundreds of dogs that have had the misfortune of crossing his path. Mr. Skeldon has said that his first priority as dog warden was to protect the public from dogs. While this is of course an important and necessary part of being a dog warden, Skeldon seems to have forgotten that dogs often need protection from some people in society, as well as compassionate individuals to advocate for their well-being. Most citizens expect even a low level of these attributes from their county dog warden. Someone who does not understand or like dogs, who does not genuinely care about the welfare of animals, and who cannot or refuses to find a balance between protecting the public and looking out for the furry creatures that share our streets and homes, does not deserve or belong in a position of animal control.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fantastic well written informative article lacy marshall! ~ even if you weren't my first born!

These are the dogs of HELP FIDO...our dogs...this is why we are here...