Subzero temperatures since Christmas kept the five officers in the Butler County Dog Warden’s office traveling from call to call trying to keep animals safe.
“I would say since Christmas, between the five of us, we have done around 100 calls for welfare checks,” said Kurt Merbs, county dog warden supervisor.
Even with their best efforts, not all dogs were saved.
A Butler County woman is facing several felony charges after three of her dogs were found Jan. 7 dead due to neglect in the cold weather.
Merbs said a welfare check on seven dogs on the property of St. Clair Twp. resident, Melissa Damico, 3700 Morganthaler Rd., was conducted after the property called and three dogs were found deceased due to neglect and cold weather, while four other dogs were found alive but severely malnourished.
Damico had moved to a new home, abandoning the seven dogs. There was no food, water, or appropriate shelter from the weather.
Damico was taken to the Butler County Jail and charged with three felony charges of cruelty to companion animals and four misdemeanor counts of the same charge and will appear in Hamilton Municipal Court.
On Wednesday, the surviving dogs, Chihuahua mixed breeds, were doing well recovering at the Animal Friends Humane Society.
The dogs were gaining weight and will soon be ready for adoption after spay and neutering.
“It is amazing what food and water will do,” Merbs said looking down at the friendly, energetic pups.
Earlier this month, misdemeanor charges were filed against two St. Clair Twp. residents after their German Shepherd was found frozen to death in the back yard. And it was not first frozen dog found during the cold snap.
“We had at puppy found frozen (previously) in Middletown. It was in a carrier by a Dumpster,” said Kurt Merbs, Butler County Dog Warden Supervisor. “But chances of getting leads on that are slim.”
The male German shepherd was found frozen in its plastic dog house at the Henry and Saundra Ensor residence. Humane Officers were called the Morganthaler Road residence Jan 2 and found the dog in the plastic house with very little straw and his head down in the snow.
The dog was also chained to a tree, and there was another wooden house in the yard that was barely reachable by the dog.
The Ensors are scheduled to appear in Hamilton Municipal Court later this month
“When you confine a dog, you are all it has. They cannot get away to find food or shelter. That is where it is the owner’s responsibility,” Merbs said.
When temperatures dip to dangerous levels for people, they are also too cold for pets, Merbs said, and adequate shelter is a must.
“We are encouraging at all costs to bring them inside, especially over night,” Merbs said. “If they have to be outside, the best thing is more straw, maybe put up some sort of wind block, something over the door or tarp to help block the wind. But it is best to bring them in or make some sort of arrangements for them inside.”
The warden’s offices passes out straw free of charge to pet owners that need it and when they are running low the community responds with donations.
“A few days ago, Joseph’s Legacy rescue donated about 20 t0 25 bales of straw, so our trailer’s packed full again, but it won’t last long, we are out giving bags away daily,” Merbs said.
While this winter is shaping up to be a busy one for the humane officers, Merbs said warm weather periods are also challenging times.
“Strictly talking welfare checks, I would say we are busier in the winter time. As a whole though we are swamped in the summer including dog bites and dogs running loose agitated from the heat,” Merb said.
Residents can report pets left in the cold to the Butler County Sheriff’s Dog Warden at 513-785-1300 or by texting “COPS” to 274637.
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