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Putnam shelter prepared for bigger tenants than cats and dogs

By By Ryan Quinn
Staff Writer
KENNY KEMP | Saturday Gazette-Mail photos
Jon Davis, executive director of the Putnam County Animal Shelter and the county’s chief humane officer, feeds a horse outside the new livestock shed Friday.
Phillip Mullett, of Chuckey, Tenn.-based Cherokee Storage Buildings, pulls a tarp off the livestock shed after it was delivered to the Putnam County Animal Shelter, in Red House.

RED HOUSE — The Putnam County Animal Shelter got a new livestock barn with three stalls Friday afternoon.

However, there unexpectedly were four horses on site. Jon Davis, the county’s chief humane officer and head of the shelter, caught one running on Interstate 64 that morning.

Tricia Slater came to pick up Red, her gelding, shortly after the livestock barn arrived. Reporters had shown up to see the new structure.

“He did, too,” Slater said of Red, who was making friends with the other horses in a fenced-in enclosure while the shed was unloaded from a delivery truck. Lisa Herdman, the shelter’s office manager, said about a half-dozen West Virginia State Police troopers responded to Red stopping traffic on the interstate. Slater said police called her at 3 a.m. about him. She had left the gate open.

The new $7,000 livestock shed was purchased through a roughly $300,000 donation fund, said Karen Haynes, who helped raise the money.

It could be useful for other short-term stays in the future, but it will really benefit livestock that have longer stays. Red got to go home with his owner, but the other three horses, one an aggressive animal being held apart from the others, are being kept away from theirs. They have to stick around until an animal-cruelty case is wrapped up and a judge decides if they can be adopted out.

Humane Officer Greg Sydenstricker said the county seized the horses from Gail and John Cobb in late November.

“One was 400 pounds underweight,” Sydenstricker said. “Since November, they’ve dramatically picked up body weight and health.”

A criminal complaint against Gail Cobb stated that humane officers first responded to reports about the thinness of the couple’s horses in July. The officers identified problems and followed up in August.

After that, “time went by as we were moving into our new facility and things got put on hold,” recounts the complaint, signed by Sydenstricker and Humane Officer Keith Adkins. Another report came in on Nov. 22 of a dead horse by a pond. A hearing for John Cobb will be at 1:45 p.m. April 10, and one for Gail Cobb will be 2 p.m. May 7.

While the other horses might have improved, one that Haynes was feeding carrots Friday has a neurological disease that causes it to fall over. Sydenstricker said it must be euthanized.

Davis said the shelter has, in the past, had to find volunteers with land to hold livestock. After these horses leave, he said, the shelter will give the state Department of Agriculture back its donated fence and build its own, permanent one.

The livestock addition is just one of several successes officials have touted since the new shelter opened around Nov. 1. Davis said the shelter has almost completed a surgery room for spaying and neutering, and a clinic from Barboursville will do sterilizations once a month.

Putnam County Project Manager Dusty Hurley said the shelter has adopted more than 270 animals since it opened and, in March, it hit a daily record of 11 animals adopted out. She recounted a deaf man from Maryland who drove to the Putnam shelter to adopt a deaf Dalmatian mix.

Davis said the shelter hasn’t had to euthanize because of space constraints since the organization moved from its dilapidated, 2,000-square-foot building to the new 10,000-square-foot structure.

Haynes said the surgery equipment, along with the livestock shed and everything else for the shelter but the building and the land, was paid for with the $300,000 in fundraising. She estimates there’s $1,400 left.

The shelter is raising money for spaying and neutering through the Dog Jog 5K Run and Walk beginning at 8 a.m. May 10 at Hurricane’s Valley Park.

For more information, visit the Facebook pages for the event and the shelter. You can find adoption and other information on the shelter Facebook page and on its Petfinder page, at /shelters/WV96.html.

Reach Ryan Quinn at or 304-348-1254.

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