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03-09-2007 06:35 PM #1
Roaming dogs a problem for neighbors
Roaming dogs a problem for neighbors
Published: March 9, 2007
By KATY BRANDENBURG
The Union Democrat
One man suspects his neighbor's husband of poisoning his dog. Another woman accuses her neighbor of stealing her dog after it is missing for several days.
Nothing puts neighbors at each other's throats like disagreements over dogs. Animal Services Officer Stacey Vavzincak should know — he has a binder full of complaints to respond to each day. On his list Thursday was a house where a caller had reported a man keeping 14 dogs, two horses and dozens of cats, which he supposedly shot and skinned.
Vavzincak walked back to the car after meeting with the homeowner, shaking his head.
"He said he skinned a raccoon there a year and a half ago … but no cats," he said.
In his 10 years on the job, Vavzincak has heard it all. Animal Services Supervisor Sgt. Chris Hewitt said the office receives as many as 25 calls a day, about 75 percent of them dog-related.
Vavzincak said most of his complaints are about dogs running loose on other people's property, terrorizing the neighborhood or scaring passersby.
"Everything's a pit bull," he said. "I can go and find a Chihuahua, and the person will say, ‘I could have sworn it was a pit bull.' "
Calaveras County does not have a leash law, but a county ordinance requires owners to keep dogs under control at all times, either with a fence, wall, leash, or by command. Dogs are allowed to run within the bounds of a person's property, but the owner is liable for any harm the dog might do to someone who legally comes onto the land — like the mail carrier, for instance.
Already this year, 35 mail carriers in the Sacramento postal district have been bitten by dogs, said Laney Huffman, Angels Camp postmaster. No carriers in Calaveras County have been seriously injured, but she said some have had to temporarily curtail delivery to certain homes because of aggressive dogs.
Laurie Leister and her husband, Bruce, of Altaville, carry pepper spray and an air horn when she runs or he rides his motorcycle because of occasional dogs running loose in their neighborhood.
"The air horn is a great tool," Laurie Leister said. "You can react very quickly and it doesn't hurt them."
She originally started carrying the horn to scare off mountain lions when running at night, but found it to be effective in fending off dogs.
Stray dogs present other problems, such as a recent call to the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office reporting an unwanted male dog impregnating the caller's dog as she dialed.
Animal Services officers can impound loose dogs and issue the owners citations for violating the control ordinance. The shelter charges a $15 impound fee if the dog is licensed and $25 if it is not, plus $8 for each day the dog is boarded — $12 per day if it bites and it must be quarantined. If the dog is not neutered or spayed, the state adds a $35 fine.
Vavzincak said dogs will usually run home if chased, making it easier for him to contact the owners. If it is a first offense, he gives the owners literature about county control laws, and possibly a warning or 30-day "fix-it ticket" to get their dog licensed or spayed-neutered. For a repeat offense, Vavzincak will cite the owner and let the judge set the fine.
"A dog owns what it sees," he said. "They know no property lines. Any owner who says their dog never leaves their property … it isn't so."
Dogs attacking livestock is a problem in rural areas, Vavzincak said. Ranchers who see a dog attacking an animal, even if it's another dog, are legally allowed to shoot it, according to Hewitt.
"If the rancher hasn't already shot the dog, we try to locate the owner and issue them a citation," he said. "If they have, we collect the body for evidence and cite them."
As part of the penalty when a dog kills or damages livestock, its owners must pay back the price of the animal killed, plus the value of one offspring it might have had, Vavzincak said. He recalled a case where two dogs got into a pasture and killed seven goats, but left the carcasses alone.
"Everyone thinks it's the blood they want, but it's not," he said. "They're just adrenaline junkies. They love the thrill of the chase."
A new state law that took effect in January prevents owners from leaving their dogs tied to a stationary object for more than three hours at a time. Animal Services receives regular reports of dogs tied up all day and night, Hewitt said.
As for the classic barking dog complaint, more than one person has to complain before anything can be done, Hewitt said. Often, though, an Animal Service officer will address a dispute between neighbors.
"It's always community policing," he said. "A lot of times we'll step in as a mediator and try to settle it without having to send someone to court, but that's not always the case."
Contact Katy Brandenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 736-0916.
03-09-2007 07:40 PM #2
Re: Roaming dogs a problem for neighborsStray dogs present other problems, such as a recent call to the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office reporting an unwanted male dog impregnating the caller's dog as she dialed.
Re: Roaming dogs a problem for neighborsOriginally Posted by bahamutt99