With resources stretched to the breaking point, Ty Goodman, the Rim country's lone remaining animal control officer, is hoping there is help on the horizon.
That help could come at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 25 when the Gila County Board of Supervisors holds a public hearing in Globe, a first step in expanding county-wide the leash ordinance already in effect in District 1.
"I'm the only animal control officer in northern Gila County, period," Goodman said. The Town of Payson's animal control officer recently retired and the position has not been filled, and the county's other officer is out with a back injury and may not return, he said.
While a leash law was implemented in District 1 several years ago, similar regulations are spotty in the rest of the county.
"There are sections that have an ordinance and sections that don't in the other two districts," Gila County Administrator Steve Besich said.
"District 2 includes Gisela, Deer Creek, Tonto Basin, Rye and Young, and those are all communities I cover," Goodman said. "My district goes all the way to Roosevelt Dam, clear to Strawberry and all the way to Young. Right now, I don't even have time to patrol. All I can do is respond to complaints. I'm working nine to 10-hour days to keep up with it."
A county-wide leash law would initially make things more hectic, Goodman predicts, but in the long run would provide the support he needs to do his job.
"Since we've had the leash law (in District 1), it has really helped," he said. "People are tying their dogs up and they are less of a problem."
But in Districts 2 and 3, it's a different story.
"The health department received a number of complaints, and that convinced us we need to take a county-wide approach," Besich said.
Besides requiring that dogs be confined or on a leash, the ordinance also prohibits excessive barking. Working ranch animals are the exception.
"Right now, the only way I can pick up dogs in those areas without a leash law is if they're not licensed, so this would really help," Goodman said. Most of the complaints he responds to are dogs at large "dogs getting loose and coming after me."
Under the leash ordinance, owners of dogs picked up by Goodman are required to pay an impound fee of $15 a day plus $7 a day for board.
"Repeat offenders can be cited," he said.
Fines range from $50 all the way up to $400, depending in part on how many times the dog has been picked up.
"Constable Eddie Armer is the hearing officer, and he determines what the penalties will be if there are complaints," Besich said.
Payson Humane Society Manager Diane Fitzpatrick, whose organization also serves parts of District 2, endorses the county-wide approach.
"Leash laws are good because they reduce the number of dogs running free," she said.
Fitzpatrick said it is critical that dogs wear some kind of identification, even if they aren't licensed.
"If there is ID on the dog, we can contact the owner immediately," she said.
Dog licenses can be obtained at the Gila County Health Department, 107 W. Frontier Street, or at the Payson Humane Society, 812 S. McLane Road. The fee is $7 if the dog is neutered or spayed, and $15 otherwise.
Proof of rabies vaccination is required.