WARREN – Trumbull County Dog Pound Volunteers have been advised that they are now only permitted to walk the dogs, but play no other role in their care. Pound employees and volunteers say the policy change will hurt the dogs’ chances of being adopted.
The county employees union agreement states that work normally performed by members of the bargaining unit cannot be assigned to another individual, so long as a member of the bargaining unit is available and able to complete work.
Pound volunteer Amanda Hebert, who is usually on site four to five days a week, said she thought this shouldn’t apply to volunteers as they aren’t paid so shouldn’t be ranked like entrepreneurs. Volunteers do work that union members are often too busy to do, she says.
The only members of the union are the secretary and the four assistant dog guards, one of whom is on leave after being charged with four counts of animal abuse.
“If I was paid, I would understand how it would be a violation”, Hebert said. “But I don’t get paid. I do it because I want to take care of animals.
She said the volunteers were told the change was due to county liability issues and to avoid a union grievance.
Hebert and other volunteers attended the county commissioners meeting Thursday to voice those concerns. Commissioners Niki Frenchko and Mauro Cantalamessa said they would each be in contact with the union.
Cantalamessa said they shouldn’t alienate people who want to help animals and also pointed out that volunteers save the county money.
Frenchko said, “We just have to make sure we do things the right way and don’t create union grievances. That doesn’t mean you can’t walk the dogs, that’s wonderful, but I’m just trying to avoid responsibility.
Hebert said all volunteers must sign a waiver releasing the county and its employees from liability in the event a volunteer is involved in an accident on or off the pound’s premises.
Guardians are responsible for completing all paperwork, coordinating volunteers, handling money associated with dog licenses, picking up strays from the streets, and completing admissions procedures, which take up most of their time. time, she said. With the recent change in what volunteers cannot do, the workload for custodians has increased.
One of the main roles of volunteers, before the recent change, was to take the animals to their training appointments. Hebert said it was important for the animals to eventually be adopted. This training helps alleviate any behavioral issues that animals may have when they first enter the pound, due to the mistreatment they have experienced before.
Training has been suspended for most, if not all, of the dogs because the assistant managers do not have time to take the animals to training or do the necessary paperwork beforehand.
Hebert said she was worried that no one would want to adopt dogs with behavioral issues. This could overcrowd the pound, which is forbidden to refuse dogs. At this point, the only option would be euthanasia.
Hebert said an increased rate of euthanasia would hurt the pound’s relationship with other animal shelters. Currently, the pound rarely euthanizes an animal. The last time this happened was over a year ago.
In addition to no longer being able to participate in training, volunteers can no longer manage social media accounts to advertise dogs for adoption or change the dogs’ water.
“The Executive Director (Michelle Goss) did everything she could to eliminate euthanasia”, Hebert said. “She has formed relationships with dog shelters that can take them in if we can’t, but just as we’re almost at capacity, so are everywhere else. It is a national issue. »
Thursday, the pound had 14 dogs inside, which is the maximum; eight outdoors in space that will soon be unavailable as cooler weather approaches; and three in crates, which are not designed for long-term use, but the pound has no other choice.
Hebert said the pound had to cancel an appearance at an Adoption Day fundraiser she was scheduled to attend Sunday in another county because of the ongoing issues, further limiting exposure for animals to be adopted.