County Must Train Its Animal Control Officers

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Editor:

The news has traveled to our office about the Gila County animal control officer who committed a terrible injustice to a Great Dane and its owners, Mary Hansen and family.

The first offense committed by officer, Mike Spaulding, was to fail to perform an investigation before seizing the animal. A simple interview of the neighbors would have taught the officer that the animal did not, in fact, attack the child, and was known to be a gentle animal.

The second offense he made was to use a bite stick when he obviously did not know how. Although the cause of death has yet to be determined, all signs point to the fact that Spaulding choked the animal with the bite stick. If this is in fact the case, then his third and fatal mistake was to ignore the signs that the dog was choking. A dog does not choke to death without first displaying some very visible warning signs.

The injustice to the Hansens and their dog, Tonto, does not stop with Spaulding. The county is responsible for empowering this poorly trained person to enter the Hansen's yard and seize their dog, and for supplying this officer with a bite-stick that is known to be a death-stick when improperly used.

Perhaps some disciplinary action toward the owner was in order, to ensure that the dog did not escape its yard again in the future. But the grief that has been inflicted upon the Hansens by the violent and unnecessary death of their beloved companion was uncalled for.

I sincerely hope that this incident will bring Gila County to the firm knowledge that its animal control officers need better training on many levels. I urge the county to impose strict disciplinary action upon Mike Spaulding. I would also advise that the county conduct a thorough investigation of his performance and seriously reconsider his employment with the county.

Debbie Daly, Animal Defense League of Arizona

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