As Defiance County’s humane agent, Stacie Fedderke has found what she considers a good balance between a love of animals and the law.
Fedderke, 45, of rural Delaware Township, has been the county humane agent since August 2013, and also splits her time as director of animal control at the Justin F. Coressel Animal Shelter, northwest of Defiance. But the two positions often go hand-in-hand, allowing her to care for animals and investigate instances in which they aren’t cared for properly.
“This job is a perfect balance,” said Fedderke — a former radio dispatcher with the county 911 center — of her love for animals and the law.
Her job as county humane agent doubtlessly is the source of some confusion. Despite the county reference, Fedderke is not a county employee. Rather, she is employed by the Fort Defiance Humane Society, a nonprofit organization which operates the county-owned animal shelter.
Mostly running on private donations and fundraisers, the humane society receives a minority of its funding from Defiance County commissioners, who contract with the organization to care for dogs taken in by the county dog warden.
While Fedderke is not an employee of a county government law enforcement agency, she does have law enforcement powers. That includes citing animal owners into court when care for their pets or livestock is inadequate, or in cases where cruelty is uncovered.
Concerning the latter, Fedderke noted that people sometimes think this is just a food, water and shelter issue, but it’s more complicated than that: “It is any act or omission that causes undue pain or suffering when there’s a reasonable remedy or relief.”
Her two job duties often overlap.
“I work a lot with our veterinarians, ordering the medications needed, checking over each animal for any symptoms they have,” explained Fedderke of her shelter duties. “It kind of goes with the humane aspect because we have animals brought in that are not in very good shape.”
The humane agent component of her job is often the most difficult. Fedderke often has to enter confrontational situations to wrest pets away from irresponsible — and sometimes angry — owners who violate their duty of care.
“It’s heart-wrenching, but knowing that you’re getting that animal out of that situation is rewarding,” she said. “But it’s also nice to be able to help people understand animals so they can make an experience with an animal more rewarding for them.”
When she can take an animal out of a bad setting, “it’s a victory,” Fedderke added. “It’s rewarding to see them when they go out to a home where they are happy and have someone that cares about them.”
The humane agent investigation caseload, she indicated, has risen recently.
”I think the laws in Ohio were just lax for so long,” Fedderke commented. “One thing she is trying to do to prevent poor or unacceptable animal care is to educate the public.
“We try to do as many presentations as we can to let the public know,” she said, explaining that “we’re getting invited into schools” to teach kids “the proper way to treat animals.”
Fedderke’s career choice is not surprising, given her upbringing and love of animals.
She said she was always around them in her youthful years, including traditional pets like cats and dogs, but her family also cared for llamas, alpacas and hedgehogs.
“I’ve always had a love for animals,” she said. “That came from mom — she always had animals. We always had misfits no one would take care of.”
Getting to her present employment, however, took a little bit of time.
Not long after graduating from Living Word Christian School in Williams County in 1992, Fedderke set about raising her family in Delaware Township with husband, Shawn. They have four daughters — Breanne Fifer, Morgan Delong, Erynn and Catylin — as well as five grandchildren.
She worked briefly for M&M Medivan as an EMT (1995-98) and took some classes at Defiance College before joining the county’s 911 center as a dispatcher in 1998 — shortly after the facility opened. She stayed until 2016, learning some valuable things along the way from her former boss, retired Sheriff David Westrick.
“Working with Sheriff Westrick — that’s an experience I’ll never forget,” she said. “He really taught me to love the law because he loved the law and people. I just learned a lot from him.”
During her time with the 911 center, she also attended the police academy at Northwest State, continued a seven-year stint as a Delaware Township EMT and received her humane agent training at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in 2013. After becoming the county humane agent that year, she worked briefly for the county dog warden’s office in succeeding years before taking the job as animal shelter director in September 2017.
However, the shelter position — in addition to her humane agent duties — was just “getting too much,” she said. The humane society board then decided early this year to hire a part-time executive director (Lisa Weaner), so Fedderke could focus more on animal care and humane agent duties.
It seems to be a good blend.