Animal shelter makes strides under new leadership

New leadership and an active list of volunteers have helped turn a once forgotten about animal shelter around. The Van Wert County Humane Society showed what improvements have been made since the shelter's former warden was sentenced to jail for animal neglect and cruelty.

VAN WERT, Ohio (WANE) – New leadership and an active list of volunteers have helped turn a once forgotten about animal shelter around. The Van Wert County Humane Society showed what improvements have been made since the shelter’s former warden was sentenced to jail for animal neglect and cruelty.

The shelter has been under new leadership since July of last year, when ex-Dog Warden Richard Strunkenberg was removed from his position after sheriff deputies determined that living conditions were unacceptable. Three dogs and six kittens had been found dead at the shelter.

Strunkenberg pleaded guilty to two counts related to animal cruelty and was sentenced to 90 days in jail this past February.

Things have begun to turnaround, which began with the formation of a new ten member board. “We’ve been focusing on making sure things are safe, and being sure the animals are well taken care of,” said Van Wert County Humane Society President Pete Weir.

A lot of the work to start was as simple as forming policies and enforcing them. Meetings were every two weeks at the beginning and lasted three to four hours.

“A lot of stuff was in put in place,” said Weir. “We set an adoption fee, a relinquish fee, created volunteer forms, we screen our volunteers, and we even make courtesy checks to see how an adoption is going. We’re administering shots now. We have cats now. We really didn’t have cats here before.”

Saturday’s open house not only gave the public a chance to make an adoption, but also see the improvements.

“Everything said about this place has been positive,” said Brenda Hofmann, who adopted a dog. “I know some people say the changes aren’t coming as fast as some would like, but compared to what it was like a year ago, it’s a 100 percent better.”

Previously, the shelter did not want or look for volunteers, but now countless people pitch in to offer a helping hand.

“There are people in this facility seven days a week,” said Weir. “The cats and dogs get fed and watered every day. I can’t express the gratitude to our volunteers. They also come in during the week and walk the dogs.”

Future projects include filing for a 501(c)(3), so donations are eligible for tax deductions. A local high school class is building the humane society a website that’s set to launch in the next two months, and a local Cub Scout troop is working to build the shelter animals exercise and play equipment.

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