Kosciusko County animal control officer keeps job

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After county commissioners received 16 complaints against animal control officer Jerry Clase, the commissioners ruled Tuesday that none of the allegations prove animal abuse.

Clase, they announced, will keep his job.

“We admonished Mr. Clase that in the future, if there ever is a situation where there is abuse substantiated that there could be termination involved, and he understands that,” said Bob Conley, Kosciusko County commissioner.

Clase, a 23-year animal control officer for the county, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Conley said in the last two weeks he’s heard some 80 supportive comments from people in the community. None of them, aside from the original 16 complaints, were negative.

Still, for those on hand Tuesday who alleged the abuse – or who simply love animals – the announcement disappointed.

“I really felt like we had presented a really strong case for abuse,” said Julie Smith, who wanted Clase fired.

“We had 16 eyewitness accounts, they were willing to put their name on paper, and basically I felt like they were sort of discounted,” she said.

Commissioners say they reviewed carefully each complaint. None of them could be proven with photos and others evoked different stories from different people.

"During our investigation we had people say things to us like, I do not have any specific instances, or this is unsubstantiated,” said Conley.

Mary Geyer sat and heard the news Tuesday. Geyer led a group of animal lovers last week as they discussed the allegations. She says the decision to keep Clase saddens her, but she understands the commissioners and the process they followed.

"It's very difficult to hear so many conflicting stories and find the truth,” said Geyer.

Geyer and others say they will continue to look for evidence and stories they can substantiate more fully. Meantime, they say the process has been a productive one and will benefit the animals of Kosciusko County.

"He's gonna be watched, he's gonna be known, his name is gonna be recognized,” said Julie Smith.

“There are more people that are going to be watching, that are going to be aware, and that are going to come forward,” she added.