Reynoldsburg News

Dog shelter director still on city's ad hoc committee

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Reynoldsburg City Council President Doug Joseph said Joe Rock is still a member of an ad hoc committee studying Reynoldsburg's laws about vicious dogs, even though he was placed on paid administrative leave last week from his job as director of the Franklin County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center.

"Unless council takes official action to alter the committee makeup, no changes will be made," Joseph said. "At this point, no one on council has indicated an interest to alter the committee."

Franklin County commissioners placed Rock on administrative leave April 14 while the shelter and his management of it are investigated. A county administrator has been reviewing reports of problems at the shelter since last month. Multiple shelter employees have complained that Dr. Vincent Morton, the dog shelter veterinarian, deliberately provoked dogs to aggression during behavior tests so that he could mark them to be euthanized.

Rock said April 8 that he hoped authorities would do an investigation.

"Everything will be clear about what's been going on and what is going on," he said.

Rock's attorney, Nicholas W. Yaeger, said since Rock became director, he "has overseen and managed the Franklin County Dog Shelter's increased growth in animal adoptions and the sizable reduction in the number of animals subject to euthanasia."

Lori Schwartzkopf, a representative of Pit Bulls for Reynoldsburg, said the group would not object to Rock staying on the ad hoc committee, but if he isn't able to participate, there will be "a void of authority to answer questions regarding state law under which Franklin County Animal Control, which services Reynoldsburg, functions."

Pit Bulls for Reynoldsburg and Citizens for a Breed Neutral Reynoldsburg are seeking a change in the city's breed-specific legislation that bans ownership of pit bulls in the city.

"Our stance on Mr. Rock is that his experience as an animal control director and dog warden is of great value, whether he is on staff with the Franklin County animal control or not," she said.

"His involvement with pit-bull-type dogs and dogs of all types has given him what we feel is an expert opinion as to the efficacy of BSL (breed-specific legislation) in promoting community safety and the situations and conditions under which all types of dogs can become aggressive."

However, Schwartzkopf wrote a letter to Reynoldsburg City Council April 17 asking that another county dog warden or Paula Evans, a humane society agent from Licking County, replace Rock, if he is not going to attend the weekly meetings.

Rock was at the first two ad hoc committee meetings but has not attended any since the dog shelter investigation started. He had been on medical leave for a week, according to Yaeger, and his first day back on the job would have been April 14, the same day county commissioners placed him on leave.

Yaeger said in an email that Rock had received "stellar performance reviews" during the 15 years he has worked for the dog shelter. He said his client would like to comment on specific allegations but won't because he wants to cooperate with the county's investigation.

Rock will continue to receive his $81,120 annual salary while he is on leave.

Assistant Director Deb Finelli has assumed the day-to-day running of the shelter.

Columbus Dispatch reporter Will Drabold contributed to this story.

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