A reader is dismayed with the number of dogs allowed to run loose in Payson and asked that it be addressed in a column. The situation is particularly crucial in Payson where the results are often tragic. Cats too are allowed to be running loose. The life span of both dogs and cats are greatly reduced with this freedom.
There are a number of reasons why dogs and cats should not be allowed to roam. The most important is for their own safety. Loose dogs frequently join up with other dogs and pack activity can be frightening and destructive.
There also is the issue of safety for other people. Dogs and cats running loose cause car accidents as a driver swerves to avoid hitting an animal and loses control of the vehicle.
If you have ever been walking your dog and encountered a loose dog or group of dogs, it is very unnerving. You have no idea of their temperament both toward you and toward your dog. You cannot turn and run because you know they could outrun you. You stand your ground and hope for the best. You can pick up a little dog but with a large dog, that is rather difficult. It is simply not fair for an irresponsible pet owner to put others in this position.
Dogs that are allowed to run loose have a much greater chance of getting hit by a car, getting poisoned, eating something that can cause sickness or severe internal damage, or causing harm to others. Dogs that run free are more likely to develop traits of wildness and they will be less and less willing to stay confined in the future.
It is illegal to let a dog run loose. Animal Control Officer Don Tanner and his assistants pick up as many as 10 dogs a day. These dogs cause problems for a confined dog in heat, defecating on people's property and being hit by cars.
According to Tanner, 75 percent of the dogs picked up running loose are not neutered and these tend to be repeat offenders. Most of the neutered dogs found loose have just gotten out of the yard accidentally.
Tanner said that after a storm with lots of thunder, the percentage of loose dogs increases dramatically. Dogs normally content staying in the yard might go crazy and climb a fence during intense thunder.
If a loose dog is hit by a car and critically injured, he will either be euthanized right there or taken to the Humane Society depending on whether the animal control person finding the injured animal is authorized to euthanize. A less seriously injured animal will be taken for medical attention. The owner is responsible for the veterinary bills.
When a licensed dog is picked up because he is running loose, he will be returned to his home. Animal control officers have a list of all licensed dogs and their addresses. A warning will be issued. If the dog is found loose again, the owner can be issued a citation -- for which the fine is $50. Unlicensed or expired licensed dogs are brought to the Humane Society. The owner will pay $15 for a pick-up fee, a $5 capture fee plus $5 for every day he is at the Humane Society. Repeat offenders face increasing penalties.
Tanner said he is lenient if he can see that the dog owner is trying to keep the dog in. If he can see that he is making progress, he will offer suggestions that may cure the problem. But with dog owners who do not care and who do not try, a citation might be the only way to get their attention.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.