The Saratoga Sun -

Going to the dogs

 


The Encampment Town Council meeting Thursday wound up going to the dogs, with two-thirds of the hour-long meeting being devoted to issues surrounding packs of unattended dogs running amok in the town.

Council members and local residents debated how to deal with the problem of the loose dogs after a local resident, Shawn Frink, told the council his girlfriend was bitten on the leg while outside. The animal ultimately was put down by the Carbon County Sheriff’s department.

Frink and other residents, as well as some members of the town council expressed frustration at the issue of the dogs, and some even wondered if it would take someone getting seriously injured before the town would act.

Frink, who said he moved to town two years ago, keeps his dog on a shuttle cable in his back yard, and that even though he has had issues with loose dogs bothering his dog and getting into garbage cans, he didn’t worry that much about the problem until his girlfriend was bitten by one of the loose dogs.

“She was surrounded by five dogs,” he said. “One of them attacked her and she got bit in the back of the leg. It came after her, but luckily she was able to get away.” His girlfriend was on public property, he said.

After the Sheriff’s deputy showed up in response to the complaint, the deputy was also swarmed by the dogs, he said, with one of the dogs ultimately being “put down.” The sheriff had multiple complaints, Frink said.

The dog was tested and was not found to have rabies, he said. However, his girlfriend was placed on antibiotics, and her injuries have prevented her from enjoying an expensive trip to Hawaii.

Nevertheless, Frink said there was one reason to be relieved, since the attack was not more serious than it was. “I don’t want to say I’m glad she got bit,” he said. “I’m just glad it was her instead of a little kid.”

Frink said after the attack, he researched the town’s ordnances regarding dogs and questioned the board as to why the laws were not being enforced.

Mayor Greg Salisbury said the town has handed out citations to owners in the past, Salisbury said, but added that people are particularly sensitive about their dogs.

“I’ll be honest with you, you could take somebody’s child out in the middle of the street, pull his pants down and spank his ***, but you touch somebody’s dog and you got World War III,” Salisbury said.

“We do have a leash law thing,” Salisbury said. “If we have to enforce that, we can but usually don’t.” Salisbury then said that it was incumbent on residents to file complaints with the town or the police, and be willing to go to court and testify against the dogs’ owners.

“We do enforce them if there’s a complaint,” Salisbury said.

Salisbury said he didn’t believe anyone in town wanted to go to a leash law that would automatically penalize any dog owner that allowed their dog to run loose, but Ben Tieszen, another local resident and town employee, told the council he believed such a law would only be unpopular amongst those who let their dogs run loose. Most responsible dog owners would not be harmed by such a law since they manage to keep their animals under control, Tieszen said.

“Why don’t we just say if you have a dog, you have to keep it on your property?” Tieszen asked. “The whole vicious dog ordinance to me is not a proactive solution, it is a reactive. You have to wait for something to happen before you can do something about it.”

“Yeah, they’ll get a citation and a fine after my kid gets bitten,” Tieszen said. “The dogs shouldn’t be out in the first place to have a chance to get vicious. To me that’s simple, responsible pet ownership.”

“Keep your dog in your yard. If they’re not in your yard, put them on a leash,” he added.

Salisbury said that if such a restrictive law were passed, the town would be put in the position of committing scarce resources to enforcing the law, and that the law would be unpopular with many dog owners.

Salisbury asked if Tieszen had filed complaints about the dogs he had seen running loose. Tiesen said he had written letters to the council and complained in the past, so it should have been clear that there is a problem.

“When that lady was mowed down in front of my house a couple years ago, I had the conversation with you and you told me not to waste my time,” Tieszen told Salisbury, referring to an incident where a dog attacked a woman in the street.

The dog from that incident a couple years ago is still around and was not put down, Tieszen said, adding that they know the owner of the dog, and the majority of the troublesome dogs roaming town belong to just a small handful of owners. Tieszen said that in most cases, when he sees a dog running loose, he knows who owns it and those who let their dogs roam free are just a small group.

Tieszen said he believed that upsetting a small group of irresponsible dog owners is outweighed by the best interests of the majority of the town residents.

Cindy Hamilton, a member of the town council, said she agreed that the council needed to address the issue and fix the ordinance. “We do need to address this. I’m not going to let it go down to ‘Oh, we don’t have the resources,’” she said. “We do.”

Frink, whose girlfriend was bitten in the recent incident said he believed the laws that existed were probably sufficient, but that the town should do a better job of educating the public about what those laws are, and then step up enforcement.

Salisbury and the council agreed that the town would publicize the laws as an attempt to educate town dwellers about their responsibilities as pet owners, and the consequences of not following the rules.

Grayling Wachsmuth, chief of police of Encampment said he was hopeful that rigorous enforcement of the existing laws would help, and that his department had already been issuing dog complaint tickets. However, he was cautious to warn attendees that such enforcement would not immediately solve the problem.

“It’s going to take a while,” he said.

The next meeting of the Encampment Town Council will be held 7 p.m., August 11 at Encampment Town Hall.

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