VAN WERT, Ohio (WANE) – Van Wert County’s Dog Warden has been terminated following an investigation into the conditions found at the animal shelter he supervised. His removal is effective immediately.
County Commissioners voted to remove Rich Strunkenberg during an executive session Thursday morning. A Van Wert County Sheriff Deputy will supervise the shelter in his place.
The Commissioners are hoping that, going forward, the sheriff’s department will take over the dog warden position at the beginning of next year. A deputy would then permanently act as the dog warden.
Commissioners Tod Wolfrum and Thad Lichensteiger released the following statement on Thursday’s decision:
We have been working with Van Wert County Sheriff Thomas Riggenback over the past year to improve the efficiency and accountability of the appointed position of the County Dog Warden.
In the very near future, the Commissioners, Sheriff and the Humane Society will begin to restructure the duties of the Dog Warden position, emphasizing 24/7 safeguards and backstops. We also want to involve and incorporate volunteers in the work of kennel and dog adoptions.
In the interim, the Sheriff will staff the shelter with one of his road deputies with specialization in K-9 training.
We encourage the community to contact us, the Sheriff’s Department or the Humane Society if the have questions, concerns, or suggestions. The safety of our community is our main concern, and it is also important to us to provide services that are always professional, competent, and meet the high standards that we expect.
Police were called to the shelter on Sunday, July 20 after getting a call from someone in the community concerned about the conditions there. After sheriff Deputies determined that the conditions were unacceptable, Strunkenberg was placed on administrative leave with pay.
When NewsChannel 15 went to Van Wert on July 24, Sheriff Thomas Riggenbach wouldn’t go into detail about the conditions he and his deputies found due to the ongoing investigation.
“I will say that it was unacceptable to me,” was all Sheriff Riggenbach said about the conditions of the animals and the shelter.
A local veterinarian had also been called out to assess the health of several of the animals. Some of them had to be taken to the vet’s office. Sheriff Riggenbach most of the animals had been returned to the shelter a few days later.
The Sheriff’s Department has been overseeing the operations of the humane society since Strunkenberg was placed on administrative leave.