Board updates public after ousting of dog warden

Van Wert County Humane Society

VAN WERT, Ohio (WANE) – Officials continue to make improvements to the  Van Wert County Humane Society months after the former dog warden was removed from his position and charged with animal neglect and cruelty.

In July, the Van Wert Sheriff’s Department launched an investigation into Rich Strunkenburg after someone complained about the shelter’s conditions. Three dogs and six kittens were found dead and many of the kennels had not been cleaned.

The Van Wert County Council voted to remove Strunkenburg from his position as dog warden a week later. A Van Wert County Sheriff Deputy was assigned to supervise the shelter in his place. Strunkenburg was charged with four felony counts of animal cruelty and neglect, all of which he pleaded not guilty to in September. He is due in court again on Tuesday, December 2.

The shelter now has a newly formed Humane Society board that is working on updating policies, creating new adoption and volunteer applications, and establishing new adoption procedures. The procedures are designed to protect the 40 to 50 cats and dogs the shelter takes in every month. The board gets weekly reports from newly appointed Dog Warden, Deputy Sergeant Randy Averesch, via  Van Wert County Sheriff Tom Riggenbaugh.

The board sent a release on Monday to update the public on the progress made at the shelter.

“We are making great strides in improving conditions at the Van Wert County Humane Society animal shelter,” says newly appointed board Vice President, Pete Weir. “Van Wert City and County officials have offered support, as have communities throughout Northwest Ohio and Northeast Indiana. We are building on the best practices and policies of our neighboring shelter communities.”

Some of the improvements include installing fencing to increase the animals’ exercise area, furnishing large metal cabinets for shelter storage, and adding surveillance equipment. The shelter is also getting help from several community organizations such as the The Van Wert County Chamber of Commerce’s Fall 2014 Leadership Class, which will help make improvements to the office and shelter. Scout Troop 35 and First Presbyterian Church will be making exercise equipment for the animals and Vantage
Career Center are volunteering their time to make a website that will have profiles of all the animals available for adoption.

The shelter is still looking for more volunteers and equipment in order to complete all the work the board wants done. Volunteer applications can be found at the shelter’s Facebook page here. The shelter is also looking for the following equipment:

  • 240 feet of 6′ tall chain link fencing and horizontal support poles, 35 posts, and three (3) 6′ gates.
  • Large metal cabinets for storage
  • Surveillance / security equipment
  • Metal or plastic cat cages
  • Office desk and 2 chairs
  • Counters for around the sink in kennel

The Van Wert County Humane Society can be contacted at (419) 238-5088.

Upcoming Fundraisers for Van Wert County Humane Society

Pet Photos with Santa & Bob Evans: Saturday, December 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Good old Santa Paws is coming to town and stopping to pose with pets at 540 Martial Arts at 134 E. Main St., Van Wert Ohio. “Come get your fur kids’ (or your children’s) picture taken with Santa and the Grinch,” says Shad Robison of 540 Martial Arts. The photos are free but donations to the Van Wert County Humane Society are encouraged.

Dinner at Bob Evans: Saturday, December 13, 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m – Dine at Bob Evans (761 W Ervin Rd, Van Wert) and 15% of your check will go to the animal shelter. Diners must present the community fundraiser flyer, which can be found here on the shelter’s Facebook page. 

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