Animal officer fired over pound conditions
Sheriff Ronald McIntire announced on Friday that Animal Control Officer Jason Bowers has been fired.
The announcement came during
Friday's meeting of the Morgan County Commission, during which county resident Libby Marquardt raised serious concerns about the county's dog pound.
Marquardt said she had spent 15 years working with animal rescue organizations. When visiting the
Morgan County dog pound on Rt. 9 east of Berkeley Springs, she said she found little dogs sitting in crates for 10 hours and sleeping in their urine and feces.
The ammonia smell in the five indoor kennels was awful, she said.
"It's really sad," she said.
The runs should be made indoor-outdoor runs so they could be more sanitary, she said.
The building was poorly heated so Marquardt bought "a boatload of blankets" to keep the dogs warm. She also took a puppy home because of the temperature.
Animal Control Officer Jason Bowers told her that he wasn't permitted to turn the heat up very high.
The building also had no air conditioning, Marquardt said.
There was a small window air conditioner that Bowers couldn't reach because supplies were stacked in front of it, she said.
Food wasn't being properly stored and was attracting rodents and bugs, she said. Drains were rusted out and floors needed to be painted.
Marquardt said she has been working with animal control and getting phone calls from the public. She asked if any of the commissioners had been to the dog pound lately.
Commissioner Tommy Swaim said that he'd been there a lot since it opened, but hadn't been there in two months. He noted that the building was heated and air conditioned and had no outdoor runs due to an agreement with neighbors.
Marquardt asked if they could sell that property and find another site that would allow runs for the dogs.
The commission had bought the property for $1, said Commissioner Glen Stotler.
Swaim said they'd thought about putting the facility out by the old landfill west of Great Cacapon, but were concerned about having neighbor complaints there.
Marquardt asked the commission to look into conditions at the pound. She said she had donated numerous supplies to the facility and paid for vaccinations and rabies shots but can't continue to do so.
Marquardt wondered why the county couldn't pay for rabies shots for the animals instead of paying the more expensive euthanasia fees. There is a serious rabies problem in Morgan County, especially with raccoons, she said.
She was along on a call where she'd seen 20 rabies citations written for dogs that didn't have rabies shots. Marquardt wanted to know if the county received money for the fines since this is money that could be put toward the facility and animal care.
They evaluate every dog and had put down only five dogs in eight months, but people are horrified at the conditions there, she said.
Marquardt said she also saw deplorable conditions on calls with Bowers. She described a pregnant dog that was chained up outside that had frozen to death and five horses that had been starving for seven months.
"There are inhuman things going on around here and someone has to take responsibility," Marquardt said.
She asked the commissioners what she could do because she gets so upset to see this.
"These are lives," Marquardt said.
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Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson said she'd gotten phone calls about the animal control facility. People had asked her about feral cats, and there is a feral cat grant program available that needs volunteers, Hutchinson said.
The county dog pound has no accommodations for cats, which are sent to the Morgan County Humane Society, said Marquardt.
Just two cats can cause a population problem if not spayed and neutered, she said. Feline leukemia is also a serious problem.
John Webster, a citizen who usually attends commission meetings, said he had gotten half-a-dozen calls about the animal control situation.
"Everyone that calls me wonders why the commission isn't doing anything," Webster said.
Other complaints had also been received about the animal control warden not responding to calls.
Sheriff Ronald McIntire said he had investigated the situation and had fired Bowers on Thursday, the day before the meeting.
"Jason didn't do his job," said McIntire.
The kennels needed to be cleaned twice a day, McIntire said.
McIntire has Deputy T.J. Johnson at the facility now and they are looking for a second person who will do a good job, he said.
McIntire noted that he is in charge of the animal control program and is an animal lover.
"Sometimes people don't do their jobs and you get complaints," he said.
Stotler said he had no personal knowledge of the situation and conditions at the dog pound, but assured Marquardt that it will be addressed.
The Morgan County Commission spends about $40,000 a year for the animal control program. The money includes an animal control officer salary of approximately $17,000, housing for the animal warden at the facility and shelter expenses.