Jeff Clark
Jeff Clark
Kosciusko County Sheriff Deputy Jeff Clark traded in responding to domestic complaints for domestic animal complaints.

That’s because Clark, who started at KCSO in 1996, is now the department’s new animal control officer. He started his duties April 1.

The animal control position at KCSO was created after public backlash seemingly pushed former county animal control officer Jerry Clase into retirement after more than 30 years on the job. Clase had been an employee of the county, with employment decisions made by the county commissioners and County Administrator Marsha McSherry.

A year ago, on June 19, Clase shot an Etna Green woman’s dog that Clase believed was suffering. Sherry Koser, the dog’s owner, was at work at the time of the shooting and the dog was in her garage. An inquiry by the Indiana State Police and Kosciusko County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Hampton found that Clase had broke no laws by shooting Koser’s dog and that his entry into the garage was legal because Koser’s landlord granted access.

Protests ensued and Koser was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty. She’s due to answer to the charge in Kosciusko Superior Court II at 9 a.m. July 2 for a bench trial – a charge she has always contested.

Shortly after the dust seemed to settle around Clase, he announced he was retiring. It was at that time that county officials decided an animal control officer position be created under KCSO and no longer be an employee of the county.

That actually proves helpful, according to KCSO Public Information Officer Sgt. Chris Francis, because Clark has full officer powers, so he can handle more responsibilities than Clase had the authority to do.

For example, if a dog bites someone or another dog, that becomes a misdemeanor charge against the dog’s owner. Clark has the authority to write that report, whereas Clase did not.

Another change under the new position is that Clark only responds to domestic animal complaints. In other words, he’s not out scraping up roadkill like Clase did; that is now a duty for the county highway and city street departments.

Clark said he didn’t have experience working with animals before he applied for the position, but said the Monday-through-Friday work shift was appealing to him. He also said he likes dogs and that dealing with the nice ones is one of the best parts of the job so far.

So what’s a day in the life of the county dog catcher like? Clark says it’s busy running around to all corners of the county handling complaints that don’t ever seem to stop. The complaint he responds to the most are loose dogs.

He’s equipped with special tools to help catch them, even including having a “kitty catcher” at his disposal. He hasn’t had to use that yet, he said.

There are some other points to the job that most of the public may not know.

In early April, when Silver Lake Police and Fire departments responded to a home that resulted in the seizure of 56 chihuahuas, Clark didn’t respond, even though the town marshal had requested his help.

The 56 dogs ended up being removed from the home by Silver Lake police and staff and volunteers with the Animal Welfare League of Kosciusko County, then were transported by AWL vans to the shelter.  

Clark said the reason he didn’t respond was because he was told not to respond by Sheriff Kyle Dukes. Clark said Dukes had spoken with Silver Lake Town Marshal Jason McGlennen and said KCSO wasn’t going to respond to transport since AWL volunteers had been able to help. Every time KCSO animal control drops an animal off at AWL, KCSO has to pay $175 from their county, taxpayer-funded budget, Clark said.

Francis said that Clark, when he does find a stray dog, will send a photo, location and time of pick-up to Francis to share on social media and that the owners almost “always respond and claim their pet.”

Clark said “there could be two of me and we’d still be busy.” The animal complaints never seem to stop, he said.