Regular readers may recall that last year Rich Strunkenburg, the dog warden for Van Wert Co in Ohio, was indicted on 4 felony counts of animal cruelty. Strunkenburg was reportedly tossing animals into cages and leaving them there with no veterinary care, food, or water, to suffer and die in their own waste. On July 20, 2014, a concerned citizen contacted the sheriff’s office, which oversees the pound, and that’s when investigators discovered the dead and dying animals. The prosecutor said at the time of indictment that due to the severity of the crimes, he would argue for the maximum sentence of 4 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. In a plea deal, Strunkenberg pleaded guilty last month to two felony counts.
This week, Strunkenberg was sentenced: 90 days in jail with work release privileges along with some additional conditions including community service. His attorney argued that Strunkenberg had been overwhelmed by his duties as the sole pound employee. Despite that fact that investigators found no animals had been given food or water, Strunkenberg told the judge:
“I did not starve any animals. […] I feel real bad for what happened.I know there were things I could have probably done a little better.”
At sentencing, the judge noted that nothing in the investigation indicated Strunkenberg ever asked for help or tried to improve the situation at the pound.
The question of supervision on the part of the sheriff’s office remains unaddressed. Strunkenburg was on the job for 12 years. It seems reasonable to believe that this level of cruelty and neglect did not arise in a vacuum the day before the sheriff’s office investigated the citizen complaint. Whose responsibility was it to provide supervision to Strunkenberg for the past 12 years and what action has been taken against that person for failing to do his job? Will the sheriff’s office bother providing any supervision to Strunkenburg’s successor? Taxpayers need to hold their elected officials and public servants accountable for these horrifying failures and demand guarantees of transparency and meaningful reform. Otherwise, there would seem to be little hope for the animals at the Van Wert Co pound.
(Thanks Clarice for the links.)