Truckee dog issue raises hackles
Dogs are part of the mountain lifestyle for many Truckee residents – and that’s why discussion of a stricter leash law has stirred community sentiments and prompted town council to consider agendizing the matter for discussion sometime next month.
The earlier discussion by members of the public at the December council meeting prompted a flood of letters to the Sierra Sun and a flurry of calls and visits with councilmembers.
“Basically, it has not been confirmed on the agenda as yet, but I am talking with staff about including it on the agenda for the second meeting in February,” Mayor Josh Susman said. “The tentative plan is to have it on the agenda for Thursday, Feb. 18, but we should know for certain by the council meeting next week.
Susman said he feels the community is evenly divided between those who feel the town needs a stronger leash law and those who feel the current regulations are sufficient.
“We have to examine the situation and create a solution that is equitable, using the resources we have,” he said. “We’re hoping to get input from the public on this when it is agendized.”
Falling evenly on the fence
Councilmember Maia Schneider said many people have contacted her since the council meeting in September, when a group of residents called for stronger animal control laws.
“I had to stop counting at 20,” Schneider said. “I have had people come into the bank, stop me in the store or even stop me on the ski hill. They seem to fall evenly on the fence. Half of the people feel there should be a leash law; the other half do not.”
Schneider said some residents have told her that if the council passes a leash law, they will not obey it.
She said her opinion is that the town should adopt a zero-tolerance policy using the current animal control law, that requires dogs to be under the control of the owner at all times.
“We need to agendize the discussion and get public input,” Schneider said. “My sense at this time would be that a compromise is needed. We should adopt a zero tolerance law so that if a person’s dog gets out of control they will be cited the first time.”
Schneider said she disagrees with people who feel that roaming dogs are a “natural” part of life in the mountains.
“Personally, I believe that when I moved to the mountains I accepted the risk of being mauled by a wild animal, like a bear or mountain lion,” she said. “I did not accept the risk of being attacked by a domestic animal. People should keep their animals under control.”
Councilmember Don McCormack said he believes the community is in favor of greater control of animals, even some who do not support a leash law.
“For sure, some people think that we need something to have greater control of animals,” McCormack said. “With the town, it is very much a budgetary matter, because trying to enforce the law that we have or a leash law will take one or two more Animal Control officers and that could cost $100,000 a year.”
McCormack said people who believe Truckee is rural and their dogs can run loose should take a closer look at developments such as Tahoe Donner, where homes are built close together.
“Many areas in Truckee are as much a community as any in the Bay Area,” he said. “Our animal control problem is no different from that in cities.”
McCormack said the choice ahead will not be an easy one.
“Council has a difficult question ahead of it, providing increased service to satisfy what a majority of the community wants,” McCormack said. “But what will we do without?”
He said that he feels council will try to provide some increase in animal control, either by stronger enforcement of existing laws or by implementing a leash law. However, those issues would be decided at the time of the yearly budget.
“I believe community is much more strongly in favor of greater control,” McCormack said. “Not necessarily in a favor of a leash law, but just because it is the right thing to do. I would like to hear from the community if they disagree.”
Animal Control Supervisor Dan Olsen said he knows there is a problem with unsupervised dogs in Truckee, and is currently looking for solutions.
“We’re considering all of the solutions that are available to us, including networking with other agencies and looking at other town’s laws. It could be all we need to do is take a zero tolerance approach. There is definitely a problem with dogs running loose, and the town and animal control need to work out a solution with the public’s help. We are doing the best job that we can with the resources we have.”
Animal control currently has the equivalent of two full-time officers working each week, Olsen said.
A contract officer works to the north of Truckee for about half the week, and devotes the rest of his time to the Truckee area. Olsen works half of the time doing administration duties and serves as a regular Animal Control officer for the rest of the week, and one full-time Animal Control officer works from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
In an earlier story on animal control by the Sierra Sun, Tahoe Donner resident Kenneth Richie stated that his dog had been attacked by a pair of Rottweilers owned by a sheriff’s deputy. The incident happened several years ago, and the dogs in question were not owned by a deputy from Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.
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