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Search begins to find replacement for Franklin County Dog Shelter director

COLUMBUS (WCMH) -- With the director of the Franklin County Dog Shelter retiring, the search for a new leader has begun. 

Animal advocates and rescue groups hope this will be an opportunity to grow a closer relationship with the shelter and ultimately help more dogs. Commissioners say they are looking for the search to be a competitive one and want to continue the work they're doing.

"We got to go get some water. Come on," said Donna Ellis to her dog Emma.

She said she found love six years ago when she "foster failed" through Franklin County's former dog fostering program. "We brought her home and it has been a lot of work, but she is worth it."

Emma is reactive to new people and needs slow introductions. The shelter suspected she was used to breed in her former life and she was not trusting of people. For those reasons, she could not go to the adoption floor and would be a better candidate for a foster program. 

Ellis says many dogs do better in a home based program. "Don't just look at the picture or how they are behaving at the shelter because that's not the dog usually. They adjust and become very loving."

This is why she wants an incoming director to bring the foster program back to Franklin County, along with new programs.

"So many of the dogs start to decline in the shelter and they become rescue only dogs. They are given a short window to be saved. Fosters could go a long way to decrease the dogs that go on that list."

She said it would also help to ease the burden on area rescues who pull dogs from Franklin Counties "rescue only" list.

County Commissioner, John O'Grady says a director who can handle a large shelter is a must. "We take in more dogs than they do in Cook County Illinois. We take in more dogs than they do in much larger communities."

The shelter takes in nearly 10,000 dogs per year. 

O'Grady also said the right candidate should have experience with disease, similar to the distemper outbreak in 2016. "Not having been through that would probably be a draw back because we have been through that."

Recent Data from the University of Wisconsin will also be considered during the search for a new director. Their study concluded the Shelter should be taking in fewer dogs per year, and suggested more use of foster based programs, a change in how kennels are operated, intervention tools to keep dogs out of the shelter, and a change in day to day duties for staff. O'grady also says they have been keeping an open discussion with their community advisory committee which consists of people from local rescue organizations.

Regardless who gets the job, expectations from commissioners and the community are high. "I want Franklin County to be a place where directors across the country come and say, how did you do that?" said Ellis.

Commissioners say they are pleased with the work current director Don Winstel has provided over the years. He will retire at the end of the summer.


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