Animal Control Officer relieved of duties
by Joshua Clark
Morgan County is searching for a new full-time Animal Control Officer. On Tuesday, February 28, Holly Jack was relieved of duty after serving the county in the role for two years.
Commission President Stacy Dugan declined to comment on specifics involving the termination.
But officials did hear Jack’s comments about the post during their March 1 commission meeting.
“I understand why what was done was done, and I realize that I did not accomplish certain tasks within the time frame,” said Jack.
“But from the start I said this single position could not cover the depth of animal issues in Berkeley Springs,” Jack said.
She cited a lack of manpower and poor equipment as a problem with the position.
“This is a dangerous job, and any new Animal Control Officer should at least be given a means to protect themselves without harming the animal, such as a stun gun,” Jack said
She sees a proposed lease agreement with the Humane Society as a more viable option for housing lost and abandoned pets than the county’s own kennel.
To Jack, the animal control position wasn’t just a job.
“Animal Control is more like a vocation, it’s like being a priest. You do it all the time, Sunday, every day, for the sake of animal safety,” Jack said.
She told the commissioners she will gladly share her knowledge and experience freely to the new officer to get them started.
More changes needed
During discussions about filling Jack’s post, confusion about the Animal Control position arose from the housing benefit included in the job.
The employment details included full housing and utilities for the officer in a house next to the county
kennel on Route 9. The arrangement allowed the animals to be constantly monitored and cared for,
but complicated the pay scale for the job.
Dugan and Commissioner Brad Close both said they’d like to revisit the topic, and possibly drop
the housing benefit from the pay equation when hiring a new officer.
Animal activists speak
Community activists such as Dawn White view the state of local animal control as animal cruelty.
“Having too many animals in one place is harmful to them,” said White.
“Animal rescue entities work together; if there are too many animals in one place they are moved to another. There can be a terrific feeling of support,” she said.
White suggests using neighboring counties as an example for clean and safe environments for animal caging.
“I think it’s obvious that Morgan County has not performed well compared to neighbors,” said White. “Comparisons should be put in perspective; there’s no other way of fixing the problem.”
Animal control officers from counties such as Berkeley and Hampshire were present at the
meeting to show a willingness to share their experience with Morgan County.
White said she wasn’t asking the commissioners to take any particular action, but to consider visiting other facilities and weighing options about where to build a new, larger county kennel.
The Commission knows first-hand the structural problems with animal control in the past.
“When we transferred over the power from the Sheriff’s Department,” said Commissioner Hutchinson, “We received the papers and records in Dollar General bags. We have come an amazing way in terms of documentation since then, and we have farther to go.”
Hutchinson argued that management of Animal Control cannot be pushed back to the Sheriff’s Department.
“The only way we are going to remedy the problem in this county is with a better facility and more officers on duty. It’s not a question of shirking duties, but a question of taking responsibility and doing what’s right,” said Hutchinson.