PDT Staff Writer
When it comes to the care of animals and enforcing the laws to protect animals, Scioto County Probate Court Judge James Kirsch is the only one in the county that can appoint humane agents. He says the agents have citation authority and can summon people to court and answer to no one.
“When it comes down to it. the only thing that I do as a result of my position is appoint humane agents for the county. That’s it. I don’t go out and pickup horses, dogs or any animal that’s been mistreated,” Kirsch said.
Kirsch says since he has been judge he has appointed a handful of people as humane agents.
“Others have tried to be appointed. In fact, at one point in time it was pretty much an automatic thing (to be appointed a humane agent). I wasn’t to careful about who was appointed,” Kirsch said. “There were several people who were appointed who had their own agenda, about what they thought they should be doing (as county humane agents). As a result, I had to realize that just because someone came to the office and said they wanted to help, doesn’t mean I’ve got to or should appoint them.”
He said about 10 years ago he revoked the appointments of people who he thought misused their authority as county humane agents.
“It was about that time I adopted a procedure, an application form that was detailed about who I would appoint. The application includes things like furnishing references among many other things,” Kirsh said. “Since then, I’ve had one or two people apply. I appointed a gentleman in Valley Township. There was a lady that applied, that I felt was not appropriate, so I did not appoint her.”
When asked what his view of the Scioto Area Humane Society he said, “It’s not an active humane society per se. There’s a humane society that was in existence for years and years and years. That humane society is the one that’s chartered as the Scioto County Humane Society. There is another group of people who have formed a humane society in quotes,” Kirsch said. “I don’t know anything about those folks or how they are organized, if they are incorporated or if they are a non-profit. From the stories I’ve seen in the news media, they are attempting to assist.”
He said it’s fine that the Scioto Area Humane Society has appointed certain people as a humane agents.
“That does not give (a person) any authority. They could appoint half the city of Portsmouth if they wanted to. If they want to have the authority, to be a humane agent an official humane agent for the county, then I’m the one that’s got to appoint them,” Kirsch said. “At this point in time, why should I appoint any of them? Who decided that they don’t need my appointment? They are just going to go ahead and do it anyway.”
When asked, what do you say to people like that, he said, “go ahead and do what you want to, but, you’re going to be responsible for it. I’m not going to provide an insurance policy for you to stand behind. You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” Kirsch said. “If you don’t want to get the appointment from the court and you want to get the appointment from this other group, that’s fine. Let them be responsible for your actions.”
He said the authority of a humane agent has is set by the Ohio Revised Code.
“Generally it’s to help prevent the abuse of animals and also child abuse. That’s where things get really sticky. Because some of these folks want to take that child abuse aspect and expand on that and become like they are agents for children’s services and can then go rescue kids,” Kirsch said. “Their definition and understanding of what child abuse is, may not be what the law says it is. That’s one of the things that scares me about some of these folks.”
Kirsch said he does not want appointed humane agents going out and picking up kids.
He said for those appointed, there are training courses available.
“The goal of a humane agent is to get people to take care of their animals. We don’t want them going in and behaving in a manner that threatens people, we have the police for that,” Kirsch said.
He said some humane agents have the power to issue citations if they see abuse going on and issue a warrant to bring these people to court. Kirsch says he has very little contact with the appointed human agents.
“They do not report to me. I appoint them and basically that’s it. It’s not like we have a meeting once a month and they tell me what they’ve been doing. We are not organized that way, I’ve got enough to do,” Kirch said.
Kirsh said he wishes there was an active humane society, that existing human agents could be a part of and report to.
When asked who the current human agents report to, Kirsch said, “basically no one.”
“They are not employees of mine, they are just appointed by me. There really is no structure, for them to operate under, just the law,” Kirsch said.
Kirsch thinks the county does not have enough humane agents.
“We have a few people trying to deal with all of the problems in the county, it’s a pretty big deal. So, they (current humane agents) get frustrated. They are spending a lot of their personal resources on training and travel.”
He said if the human agents wanted to they could turn it into a full time volunteer position. He said given the right circumstances he is open to other people being appointed humane agents.
“People have to realize there is a process to this and it’s a discretionary appointment, it’s not mandatory. Because of some of the people we’ve dealt with in the past, I’ve gotten to the point where I am very conservative and careful about who I appoint,” Kirsch said. “I certainly do not approve of animal abuse or child abuse. I don’t want to make the problem worse, by appointing people who are not appropriate for it.”
He said appointing humane agents is an area that has a lot of frustration attached to it.
“I wish things were different, but I also wish Scioto County did not have the problems it has,” Kirsch said. “It’s tremendous the needs the county has that we don’t have the resources to properly address. Someday, we may have those resources. But, until enough people become concerned about it, I really don’t see us being able to do very much or do as much as we need to do.”
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 208, or firstname.lastname@example.org.