Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tom-cat of Toledo, All-American City with its own...Dog Warden?

Yes, that's right. My hometown, Toledo, Ohio, pays a guy about $70k / year (that's a bit for the Glass City), to, ironically, fight what he thinks is a pit bull problem. He's called the Dog Warden. And if the name of his position alone isn't laughable enough, consider that Toledo Blade reporter, Dale Emch, an attorney who also wrote the deeply moving The Ohio Dog Bite Book (seriously? please), concluded from his field work and research that pit bulls are inherently dangerous dogs that possess some "switch" that can "flip" and lead to "remarkable" damage.

In his 2005 so-named personality profile of Tom Skeldon, Dog-Bite Dale goes on about Skeldon's lifelong involvement with animals, which included "practically growing up" at the local zoo, where he worked the concession stands during Summer break, managing “guard dogs" in Vietnam, and leaving a 3-year stint heading up a Delaware zoo to form a "guard dog company" in the Philippines that made profit off, as he admits himself, "money changers and smugglers".

Is it surprising then that in the mid '80s he came back to Toledo and took on a job that hadn't even existed previously? It is to an extent, but, I’ve concluded that, sadly, it’s not that surprising for Toledo. His credentials are based on his work seeing wild animals in captivity over a sno-cone or through an office window, training dogs to fight crime just outside Saigon, and then protecting criminals in Southeast Asia. And his appointment was, according to Dale Emch, based on a rec by his uncle Ned. No joke...but feel free to crack up.

I'm not saying shame on Tom Skeldon, I'm saying shame on The Toledo Blade and shame shame shame on the city of Toledo. Skeldon has been my hometown's Dog Warden for over 20 years now, and he has not only unleashed an attack on the pit bull breed but demonstrates a totally misguided, close-minded view of rescue groups in the area. He says, "A lot of rescue groups don't have a long record of standing...They almost tend to be cults of personality around a few activists."

Read these three articles from The Blade, the only newspaper in Toledo (sadly).

1. Feb 21, 2005, by Dale Emch, reporter for Blade, personal injury lawyer, has defended dog-bite victims.
2. Aug 14, 2008, re. petition to get Dog Warden Skeldon out (as if the position of Dog Warden is even relevant today anyway)
3. Aug 23, 2008, follow-up/opinion by same Feb reporter. Reveals his ignorance and affinity for Skeldon's muscle-flexing.


This post is meant to initiate dialogue, reflect on New York's city-wide initiative for lowering and hopefully eliminating euthanisia, and think especially about how more and more people see animal advocates not as some "cult of personality" but pretty with-it people working for a cause they feel strongly and are knowledgeable about. Should the no-kill status be met in NYC, it would reflect also an increase in compassion for animals and people, zero tolerance for the violence of animal cruelty especially for the lawlessness of dog fighting rings, and a more informed public on an issue that we all have had at least some experience with. I don't see a lot of compassion coming from anyone speaking out for or against Toledo's Dog Warden or its "vicious dog" issue -- only animosity.

Although NYC doesn't have a perfect system between the AC&C and rescue groups, it's a great example to cities around the US who are not quite there yet in terms of working toward a no-kill status and an increase in awareness of animal cruelty as well as the importance of adopting, spay/neuter, and responsible animal guardianship.

Please leave comments, questions!

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