One year ago, the Van Wert County Sheriff’s Department in Ohio was assigned supervision of the county pound due to concerns about the lack of response to calls. On July 20, 2014, the sheriff’s office received a complaint from a concerned citizen that pets were being neglected and starved to death at the pound. An investigation was opened and Rich Strunkenburg, the county dog warden and the sole humane law enforcement agent, was placed on paid leave. County commissioners voted to fire Mr. Strunkenburg on July 31 and last week, a grand jury indicted him on 4 felony counts of animal cruelty.
Mr. Strunkenburg, who has been living rent-free in a home next to the pound, was allegedly tossing animals into cages and leaving them there with no veterinary care, food, or water, to suffer and die in their own waste.
Sheriff Tom Riggenbach said an investigation found three dogs and six kittens dead in their kennels. He said some kennels appeared not to have been cleaned in weeks, others in several days. The deceased animals, some of whom may have been dead for two or three days, had not been removed from their kennels.
It took officers four days to sufficiently clean the pound.
Mr. Strunkenburg is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday:
If he’s convicted, each count of a fifth-degree felony carries a jail term of six months to a year, with a fine of up to $2500.
The prosecutor says the severity of the crimes against these animals could certainly warrant arguing that if there’s a conviction, the judge stack the sentences on top of each other instead of combining them into one, meaning a potential of up to four years behind bars and a $10,000 fine.
Talk is cheap. And crimes against animals are typically not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, especially when police would be testifying against one of their own. It sounds as if Sheriff Tom Riggenbach is already making excuses for the horrifying conduct of Mr. Strunkenburg:
“We do know that an attempt was made to contact the company that is used to dispose of dead animals from the kennel, and they were not able to respond that week,” the sheriff said.
The animals appeared to have been ill when they arrived at the shelter and died of those illnesses, though the sheriff said they were not provided with medical care.
Did the sheriff go to vet school and did he conduct full necropsies on these animals? Because if he didn’t, I don’t see how in PonyLand he is qualified to eyeball a pile of dead pets that happened on his watch and determine that they were sick upon impound and died of their ailments. Oh and yes let’s make careful note that the indicted dog warden called the disposal company to haul off the evidence of his crimes but they couldn’t come out fast enough. Still, full credit for mashing the buttons on the phone in the right order.
Although would-be volunteers have been turned away when they offered to help care for the animals at the pound in past, the county says they will now be allowed in. Gee, how bold.
Has the county kicked the indicted dog warden out of the rent-free house yet? I’d like to see him on the streets and relying upon the county system to make sure he is sheltered during his time of need. See if he ends up in the hands of a kindred spirit.
(Thanks Clarice and Arlene for sending me this story.)