PUTNAM COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – The new chief humane officer at the Putnam County Animal Shelter says he hopes to turn the shelter into a no-kill facility.

Monday was Jon Rutherford’s first day in charge. He says his first goal in charge is to make the facility no-kill to make it a safe place for all animals.

The county commissioners say they plan on appointing a new animal control board at the upcoming Putnam County Commission meeting next Tuesday night. From there, the board will hold a vote on potentially turning the facility into a no-kill shelter.

Rutherford says he fully intends on voting it through, otherwise he says he is not the man for the job.

“It’s not the animal’s fault that they’re here. It’s the people’s fault,” Rutherford said. “Somebody has to stand up for the animals. So as part of the animal shelter and being the Chief Humane Officer, I gotta stand up and be the voice for the people that don’t have one.”

Rutherford says until the status of the shelter is determined, he does not plan on authorizing any animals to be euthanized barring medical necessity.

The shelter closed temporarily last week to the public and will remained closed until after the building is deep-cleaned, and all the animals inside are up to date on their vaccinations. Workers are also cleaning out the facility after discovering freezers full of dead animals that were never properly disposed of.

Rutherford is stepping in to the shelter after a 9-year-old dog named Eli was accidentally euthanized at the end of June. The previous chief humane officer classified the incident as a “paperwork mix-up.”

Community members like Debbie Deweese say they hope Eli is the last dog to be euthanized at the shelter.

“That’s not humane. That’s called animal cruelty,” Deweese said. “This is not something you wanna play with. These are lives. Lives that they cannot verbally speak. The only thing they want is attention, they want loved, and they want a home.”

Rutherford told 13 News he reached out to Eli’s owner, Taylor Marie Withrow, to express his sorrow for his euthanizing, and promised her that Eli’s life will never be forgotten as long as he is in charge.

“That should’ve never happened,” Rutherford said. “If simple policies and procedures would have been followed and been in place, then this situation would have never occurred…This place has a lot of potential, and it’s there. There’s already been a lot of changes, and I think whenever we reopen to the public, they’ll see. There’s going to be a lot of transparency here.”