Getting a leash on Truckee dog problems | SierraSun.com
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Getting a leash on Truckee dog problems

ANNE GROGAN, Sierra Sun

The job of Truckee’s Animal Control officers is getting busier and it’s going to cost some Truckee residents.

Animal Control Supervisor Dan Olsen warns that individuals should be prepared to receive a citation if dogs roaming at large are their responsibility. “We’re headed toward a zero tolerance policy, at least,” Olsen said.

As Truckee’s leash law issue becomes more publicized, the number of complaints received by Animal Control increases, according to Olsen and, contrary to popular belief, Animal Control officers are not required to go out in response to complaints of barking dogs.

The department is responsible for rabies control, licensing of animals and providing housing for homeless animals. However, Olsen said they respond to some other calls.

“We are trying to raise the awareness level of the public,” he said, “It’s a matter of education. We’re not required to go, but we’ve chosen to provide that service.”

Informing residents of their responsibilities as pet owners is one way Animal Control officers attempt to raise public awareness.

By law, Truckee dog owners are required to license their pets, vaccinate them against rabies, provide them with food, water and shelter, and to comply with the containment ordinance that has been in effect in this area for approximately 20 years.

Ordinance

The containment ordinance states that a dog is allowed off the owner’s property only when the owner maintains visual command and verbal restraint. Verbal restraint, according to Olsen, is like an invisible leash: the dog remains in close proximity to its owner and is at all times obedient.

Kadi Kiisk-Mohr, president of the Truckee Humane Society, said that the language of Truckee’s current law is vague and ambiguous.

Because the law is ambiguous in its interpretation, Animal Control has adopted a policy of leniency until this time, according to Olsen. But politics in Truckee could change all that. The Truckee town council will most likely address the issue in February.

Even if a new leash law is not adopted by the town of Truckee, the current policies of Animal Control will become more stringent as the department tries to respond to community concerns, Olsen said.

First-time violators of the containment ordinance will no longer be issued a warning citation when the zero tolerance policy takes effect, Olsen said. Instead, an $81 citation will be issued to first time violators whose dogs wander at large. The second and third offenses warrant $189 citations and the fourth offense earns the violator a $486 citation. Citations are charged to pet owners and accumulate with each offense: the owner of two dogs roaming at large will receive a $189 citation.

Olsen said that one of his department’s primary concerns has and always will be to redeem dogs back to their owners.

“We make every attempt to get the animal back to its owner,” he said.

When Animal Control officers encounter dogs at large while in the field, they attempt to return the dog to its home and to discuss the containment ordinance with the owner immediately if possible. They contact the owner if possible. If the owner is unavailable, the officers will return the dog to its chain, its pen or its fenced yard when they can, leaving a note along with a warning citation for the owner.

Leash law supported

Only if the dog’s home or owner is unknown, or if the animal cannot be contained, do the officers impound the pet. Under a zero tolerance policy, these procedures are likely to change as well, Olsen said.

At its Jan. 7 board of directors meeting, the Humane Society of Truckee voted to support a leash law here.

“We support a leash law for dogs off their owners’ property,” Kiisk-Mohr said. “A leash law is entirely consistent with our adoption contract. The Humane Society’s adoption contract requires a fenced yard or the equivalent to ensure the safety of the animal.

Kiisk-Mohr said that representatives of the Truckee Humane Society will be present when the town council discusses the issue.

“The Humane Society wants to take an active role in this,” she said. “The deterring effect of the current law is not enough.”

Letters received by the Sierra Sun indicate that many Truckee residents agree that the current law must be changed or more strictly enforced.

Emergency treatment

Brooks Bloomfield, a veterinarian with Sierra Pet Clinic, said that it is his impression that the three most common causes of emergency treatment for dogs in this area are dog fights, being struck by cars, and encounters with porcupines.

In response, Olsen said, “These things do not happen when a dog is properly contained.”

Jeanie Collins Duffield, owner of Beyond Obedience, said that she refuses to work with an animal that is allowed to roam freely.

“You will never have a compliant dog if your dog is allowed to run free,” she said. “We need to be better caretakers. We need to regulate ourselves rather than make new laws.”

But many people do not regulate themselves and individuals concerned about dogs at large or other Animal Control issues should contact Animal Control, Olsen said, so that Animal Control can help resolve the issue.

“But they’ve got to call if we’re going to help,” Olsen said.

When contacting the Animal Control department for assistance, individuals must give their name, physical and mailing address, and phone number, though this information is kept confidential. Olsen said,

“Legally we cannot tell anyone by whom a complaint was filed,” Olsen said.

An Animal Control officer will investigate to verify the complaint as soon as possible, Olsen said. In addition, the complainant will receive a complaint form in the mail and when it is returned a follow-up will be performed. If the form is not returned, a follow-up cannot be conducted, Olsen said.

Bloomfield said, “We have the best Animal Control department anywhere. They’re the people out there saving lives.”

“The safety of the animal is at issue here,” Olsen said. “All we’re asking is for you to comply.”

Truckee’s town council may decide, however, that compliance with the current ordinance simply isn’t enough.

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