Pet owner calls for stricter criteria for humane society volunteers

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times Karen Bloomingdale offers treats to her outside cat, Pepper, on her porch Friday in Marietta. A recent incident involving Pepper resulted in a criminal charge for a humane society volunteer.

Two-year-old Pepper, a black porch cat, won’t sleep in her crate anymore.

“I think she’s still afraid of that dog. I’ve washed it with soap and put in new bedding, but she won’t even go near it,” said 79-year-old Karen Bloomingdale, who lives across Third Street from the Christ United Methodist Church.

Bloomingdale recently called in Washington County Dog Warden Sgt. Kelly McGilton because of an incident captured on Bloomingdale’s security cameras, which left her more than rattled.

“That’s my Pepper, she comes when I call, she’s an outdoor cat, but that morning she didn’t come to the door for breakfast, and she always comes and greets me,” described Bloomingdale. “She’ll come inside and meow and then go back outside after she sees Cheyenne (Bloomingdale’s 11-year-old Shitzu.)”

What she found on her security footage resulted in a misdemeanor charge for one of the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley’s most frequent volunteers.

“I was very shocked to find out he was a volunteer at the shelter,” said McGilton.

Norman Leight Murray, 67, of 515 Fourth St., was charged with criminal trespass by the warden after footage showed Murray allegedly allowing his Airedale dog to climb through Bloomingdale’s flower beds, onto the porch and go after Pepper on April 27.

Murray did not return calls for comment Friday, but McGilton wrote in court documents that he laughed when she questioned him on the incident.

“While on the porch, Norman’s dog approached the cat house and was fixated on it,” wrote McGilton in her affidavit of facts for the court. “Norman’s dog attempted to stick its head through the entryway and into the cat house in an attempt to get to the cat… The cat house was actually lifted off the ground at one point… I asked if he could explain what caused that to happen. Norman began to stutter and then stated, ‘our terrier loves to chase cats… she’s identified that property and one at the corner of Third and Washington that she likes to explore in the evening when we walk, so that was, that’s, that’s me not controlling her.'”

McGilton said Friday that with the footage at first she thought could prove animal cruelty since Murray appeared to make no attempt to restrain the dog as it sniffed around the beds and cat box, but a loophole in the statute stipulates that pain and suffering had to be caused by a physical injury to the animal–the cat had made it out of the altercation without injuries.

“But he allowed that dog to terrorize my Pepper,” said a choked-up Bloomingdale on Friday. “Now I hate going to bed at night and leaving her out there by herself.”

Outside of the criminal complaint though, Bloomingdale said she is upset that the humane society would continue to allow Murray to volunteer.

“Does he do that with the cats when he’s out there? You hope that all the volunteers out there are ones that love all animals, not just dogs, and treat them right,” she said.

Julie Lowther, board president for the HSOV, said there’s not a written policy restricting who is allowed to volunteer at the shelter.

“We do ask if they’ve been convicted of animal cruelty, you can’t volunteer if you have,” she said. “And if we feel that a volunteer is a hazard to the shelter, we can ask them to leave, but if he hasn’t been convicted, there’s not much we do.”

The Humane Society of Parkersburg has slightly stricter restrictions, according to administrative assistant Jenny Henderson.

“We wouldn’t let anyone with a conviction related to animals volunteer here,” she said. “Even those who have community service hours to do for the court, if their offense had to do with an animal, we don’t allow them to volunteer.”

McGilton, who works closely with the HSOV on animal cruelty, hoarding and other removal cases said volunteers at the shelter are often an animal’s first opportunity to experience love and care.

“We have cats at the shelter right now from a hoarding case that have been crated in tiny conditions the entirety of their lives, and we’re supposed to be putting them in a place with kindness and soft hands, not a place where they could be tortured, teased or tormented,” said the warden. “I feel like any agent or volunteer should be held at a higher standard when they are dealing with animals, some of which have been beaten, are scared and need extra patience.”

McGilton is also keeping an eye on three pieces of legislation before the Ohio House this session, which were introduced in February and March.

Ohio House Bill 33 would establish animal abuse reporting requirements, HB 145 would establish an animal abuser registry and HB 146 would ban animal abuse offenders from possessing companion animals.

“All three of the house bills going through right now are very helpful, making restrictions and results of behavior more black and white,” she said. “Right now it’s tough to be consistent with offenders when the courts have discretion for how long they could be banned from owning another companion animal. And adding the registry I think would be incredibly helpful, too, for following through.”

She said an animal abuse registry, if structured like the state’s sex offender registry, would allow for neighbors to be notified and become extra eyes and ears on past offenders.

“That is so so helpful for us, it’s golden,” McGilton said.

At a glance:

• A longtime Humane Society of the Ohio Valley volunteer faces a criminal complaint in Marietta Municipal Court for allegedly allowing his dog to go after a domestic outside cat on Third Street.

• Norman Leight Murray, 67, of 515 Fourth St., is charged with criminal trespass, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

• The humane society does not have specific requirements for volunteers, other than that they can’t have been convicted of animal cruelty.

Source: Times research.