Coshocton County Animal Shelter celebrates 50 years

| September 19, 2017

The animal shelter took in about 2,000 cats last year. Jen Jones | Beacon

COSHOCTON – In August 1966, a group of concerned citizens approached local county and city officials with the need for a centralized animal shelter so stray, injured and unwanted pets could be properly cared for. For the next six months, where the building would be located was one of the most hotly debated topics in Coshocton.

The first location was to be on county owned property along Morgan Run Road, near the county home. This location was dismissed as there was no water or gas available and the search was on. Another site was chosen but a petition circulated blocking the site. It was near a coal tipple, an unfenced junk yard and a beer distributing dock and citizens believed that building an animal shelter there would lower their property values.

Another site was chosen that belonged to Pennsylvania RR. Railroad officials would have to approve the building. Letters did not get written and it took several weeks to get permission. When the approval was finally received, the county commissioners declined the site and decided to build the shelter along Morgan Run Road – the first site that was considered.

The staff at the animal shelter enjoys matching people with their perfect pet. Pictured here is one of the dogs looking for its forever home. Jen Jones | Beacon

It wasn’t until the first part of February 1967 that plans were finalized. A concrete block building capable of housing 20 individual cages and a small office would be constructed that spring. The final bid for the construction of the building was $31,785 and was submitted by Roberts Construction of Coshocton. Dogs and cats from the city and the county would be cared for by volunteers.

Fifty years later, the building has been enlarged to include a meet and greet area for potential adoptees to meet their new family, a large cat room and a larger office. The front walk of the building has bricks engraved with the names of people and businesses who donated money for the shelter. A large banner proclaims this is their 50th anniversary. The outside of the shelter is welcoming and pretty, with a few chairs for people who are spending time with the shelter animals.

Leah Wolford was instrumental in getting the building constructed. Her daughter, Ivy Farley, is one of the county’s humane agents. Chris Sturtz is the other humane agent. Sturtz said, “Leah was a fighter and so determined to do what was best for the animals in the county. If not for her efforts, I don’t know when the shelter would have been constructed.”

Sturtz has been with the shelter for 40 years – 30 of those as one of the humane agents. “We had no money for years. The county gave us some money, but for everything we wanted to do, it was a constant struggle. One of the things I’m most proud of is the community of Coshocton. They are so supportive of us and what we do here.”

The animal shelter took in about 800 dogs and 2,000 cats last year. They also investigate calls of neglect or abuse. “We check every call we get. Most people don’t realize that by Ohio law, you have to check on your animals every 15 hours.  Many people say they feed their animals once a day and that’s enough. But how many of us only eat once a day? You need to check on your animals. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water and food. In the winter, water freezes quickly – you need to make sure they have constant access to water and that they have a warm place to sleep.” Anyone who suspects animal neglect can call the shelter. The team checks the messages often and will check into your concern.

The shelter does more than house unwanted animals. They offer a food bank on Wednesdays and people are welcome to come once a month to pick up food for their pets. They keep a list of lost and found animals so they can get as many pets home as possible. Sturtz and Farley respond to wild animal calls, such as raccoons. Injured or ill animals are treated by local vets. If an animal does need to be put to sleep, they have been trained in the most humane way to do so.

Low cost spay and neuter clinics are also a service the shelter provides. If a person is in need of this service, they can fill out an application at the shelter during regular business hours. The cost for dogs is based on weight and cats are $30 or $60.

“We have such an awesome team here. The volunteers who come to clean and walk the animals, those who transport animals to rescues – we all have a great love of animals and respect for each other. I am so lucky to have such a great team to work with,” said Sturtz. Her daughter, Hayley Sturtz, first visited the animal shelter when she was 4 days old and she is still there.

“We live this job. We are constantly thinking about which dog can be moved – which dog has great behaviors – which dog might be a concern around small animals,” said Hayley. “It makes our day to match a person with their perfect pet.  We want to help every animals find their perfect forever home where they will be loved. I am so proud of what we do here, every day.”

Anthony Freeman, of Coshocton, recently adopted Bailey from the shelter. Bailey was very excited to go home and was already enjoying many belly rubs from her new family. Freeman said, “I wanted a dog and decided to give one of these dogs a chance at a good life.”

Another happy story is Bear’s story. He lives in the country with his family and as he was running late last week, a concerned person thought he was a stray and he ended up at the shelter. Luckily, the shelter was able to locate his family on Saturday and he was happily reunited with his “mom” Tiffany Addy. “I have three boys who were so worried.  It was so great to get the call that Bear was safe and cared for.”

The animal shelter is always in need of donations. Cash is always welcomed as are gas cards (they have a car they use to transport animals to vets and to rescues).  Dog and cat food and treats are needed. Any types of blanket, sheet, towels, rags or washcloths are always needed. “Every dog has a blanket in their cage,” said Sturtz.  Cleaning products are also needed, as is laundry soap. The shelter is constantly washing blankets and towels. If someone wants to volunteer at the shelter, the dogs love to be walked in the afternoon.

The animal shelter is located on Morgan Run Road, off of County Road 16. It is open Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. They do have a Facebook page and can be contacted at 740/622-9741.

“I hope Leah can see just what we have accomplished from her determination. I think she would be proud and excited,” Chris said.

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