Less than two months after she was hired, Kim Cooley has been dismissed from her position as a humane officer with the Highland County Humane Society.
Jim Wikstrom, president of the Humane Society Board of Directors, said the board had a long meeting with Cooley Wednesday evening and then voted 3-2 to relieve her of her duties.
“We met for about two hours and talked in detail with Kim about the issue of her past citations. We wanted to get her full story about the incidents,” Wikstrom said. “Then we asked her to excuse us, and a close vote came back in favor of her termination. We thought it was in the best interest of the Highland County Humane Society that her position be terminated.”
Cooley, who had previously served as a volunteer with the Humane Society, was appointed as the county’s new humane officer on Jan. 4.
But shortly after The Times-Gazette published a story introducing her to the community, the newspaper learned that she has been charged six times since last April with allowing animals to run at large. All six charges were related to horses she has at her Sorg Road residence straying off of her property.
The latest charge came on Feb. 6 of this year. According to court records, that charge is still pending and there is a warrant out for Cooley’s arrest.
Wikstrom said he feels bad about the circumstances that led to Cooley’s dismissal, and that he thinks she is a good person. He said that Cooley had been an exemplary employee since she was hired as the humane officer and during her time as a colunteer. He also said that the society did not conduct a background check on her before she was hired, and that she did not disclose the charges to the board.
“There was a little extra baggage that was a little tough to relate to as far as her position as a humane officer,” Wikstrom said.
Cooley told the Times-Gazette recently that the problems allowing the horses to stray from her property have been fixed. She also said she believes they may stem from someone messing around on her property.
Wikstrom said that had the vote turned out in Cooley’s favor, the board had a list of things that she would have been required to address immediately. He said Cooley indicated that she was willing to comply with those requirements, but that the vote did not turn out in her favor.
Now, Wikstrom said, the society will turn its attention to finding a replacement for Cooley.
“The sooner the better. We’re always getting calls and we’d love to have someone in place as soon as possible,” Wikstrom said.
The Highland County humane officer is responsible for investigating reports of any type of animal being mistreated or not properly cared for in the county.
Wikstrom said the idea replacement would have empathy for mistreated animals, have an interest in dogs and cats, and be someone ready, “to take that to another level where they’re willing to investigate instances of neglect and cruelty.”
There is a three-day course a humane officer is required to complete at the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy in London, Ohio, Wikstrom said, then they must pass a test. Anyone interested should contact the Highland County Humane Society Animal Shelter at 937-393-2110.
“We do a lot of good things at the shelter, and as I said before, we have to get over this little bump and get back to focusing on the good things that we do,” Wikstrom said.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.