Humane society speaks out about role in community

By Alexandra Newman - [email protected]

SIDNEY — After a miscommunication in July, when the Shelby County Ohio Humane Society (SCOHS) had their petition to appoint their president as a humane agent denied, they want the public to know they are active and will be appealing the decision made by the Shelby County probate court.

The society says no notice was given to them about the hearing, so they didn’t have an opportunity to speak before the judge and explain why they believe a humane society is an important thing to have in Shelby County.

“All we’re asking for is an opportunity to be heard, that’s all,” said Jeffery Holland, attorney at Holland & Muriden in Sharon Center, Ohio, representing the Shelby County Humane Society.

The SCOHS has been in operation since 1976. There was some controversy over some things with the humane society a few years ago, but there is a completely new group of people running it now, he said.

“The purpose of the humane society is to help any animal in need regardless of breed or species, large or small, temperament, young or old,” said Keri Hickman, president of the Shelby County Humane Society. “We are a organization dedicated to the elimination of cruelty, abuse, neglect, and abandonment of all animals. We will provide shelter and locate forever homes and promote responsible ownership through education.”

A human society is a non-profit organization with the power to appoint humane agents, and prosecutors to prosecute animal cruelty cases. There is a specific way they have to be set up to do so, Holland said.

The only responsibility the county has to the humane society is paying $25 a month to the certified humane agents in the society, which as of now there is only Hickman with the humane agent training through Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.

“So it’s almost nothing. $300 a year is what they owe. So it’s not really a reason to deny anything,” Holland said. Animal wardens through the county or city have to be paid a salary as well.

All the members of the humane society have full time jobs or are retired, but voluntarily work with the society. They have law enforcement backgrounds, animal handling and vet clinic experience, and many years experience in rescuing animals, Hickman said.

“We will have a 911 approach to rescuing/responding to animal calls that deal with neglect, abandonment, and wounded animals. … We are an amazing team and can work and communicate together to get the rescue in motion,” she said.

Holland said there might have been some people at the first hearing in July that didn’t understand what kind of benefit that could be provided, what kind of cost there is to the community, and the fact that there is no organization handling issues other than dogs.

“I’ve represented more than half of the county humane societies in Ohio over the past 25 years,” Holland said.”Humane societies are a tremendous benefit to communities at very little to no cost. They provide humane agents who are specialists in their field who will know a lot more about issues relating to animal neglect and care than probably most law enforcement officers.”

A humane society would work in a capacity to handle other cases than just unlicensed and free roaming dogs. If there is an issue with horses, goats, birds, fish, lizards, etc., the humane society can fill that role.

“The animal shelter only takes in stray dogs/cats that are brought to the shelter, and they are only open during certain hours/days. What about all the animals that need help that don’t have the opportunity to make it to the shelter?” Hickman said.

Humane societies are not empowered to enforce licensing of animals, they don’t deal with dog tags, and they don’t really deal with dogs that are vicious or dangerous.

“Anybody can have an animal shelter. There can be rescue organizations, but in order to have humane agents who are specially trained to be able to identity, investigate and prosecute people in cases of animal cruelty and abuse, that’s county humane societies,” Holland said.

For example, a dog warden has no authority to deal with a cat hoarder. “In those cases, the animals need help and the people need help, and the county humane society is specifically set up to do that,” Holland said.

Ohio lawmakers recently passed a law that would make it a fifth-degree felony to knowingly harm a pet by inflicting pain or depriving it of food, water, or shelter – for a first offense.

“This new law, Goddard’s Law, is another very important reason to have a humane society because the humane agents are going to be the ones investigating and charging people who commit animal cruelty,” Hickman said.

Right now the human society is active and looking for new members and people who are willing to foster animals, until they can find a permanent location for them.

“The SCOHS has many goals, which include establishing a strong network of fosters to aid in the placement of animals that need rescued, starting a T-N-R (trap-neuter-return) program in this county so we can reduce the amount of unwanted and abandon cats, educating the community, and becoming a primary resource of animal information,” Hickman said. “We’re also trying to set up a reactive dog seminar for the police officials and school children.”

The society has been holding events at Tractor Supply, in Sidney, for fundraising, adoptions, and informational brochures about the SCOHS reforming. Their next event is Oct. 9.

More information about what the humane society is up to can be found at or

By Alexandra Newman

[email protected]

Reach this writer at 937-538-4825.

Reach this writer at 937-538-4825.

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