Payson hasn’t had an animal control officer on duty since August, unleashing complaints about barking and loose dogs all around town.
Officer Don Tanner went on leave for medical reasons in the fall and is not expected to return. However, he has months of accumulated sick time and vacation time. Police Chief Don Engler said Tanner would likely retire at the end of this month. At that time, Payson will start looking for a new animal control officer.
In the meantime, patrol officers have been taking animal complaint calls when they can. Sometimes, that means hours-long delay in responding to animal calls, said Engler.
“It has created issues,” he said.
Resident Denise Andersen, 63, cannot believe how many issues she has had with dogs and how little the Town of Payson has helped.
“I have lived many places in my life, I have never had the problems with dogs that I find here in Payson,” she said. “It is shocking to me.”
Andersen lives on South Palomino Circle and she said dogs bark throughout the neighborhood.
And barking dogs are not an isolated problem. Roundup readers for years have sent letters to the editor complaining of barking dogs in their neighborhoods. One woman who lives on East Frontier Street, who asked to remain anonymous, said she has spoken with Engler and town officials, but to no avail.
“We call this area dog town,” she said, given the number of front yards with yapping dogs.
Andersen said she is frustrated with the lack of support. While Officer Tanner was good about giving warnings to owners whose dogs were barking or loose, without him, things have deteriorated.
She said when an officer arrives now they don’t offer much help.
Frequently, she’ll call about a barking dog and when an officer arrives the dog has stopped barking or is inside.
One officer came in her back yard and when he didn’t hear any barking asked her what she wanted him to do.
“He just seemed disinterested,” she said. “And he didn’t put in any effort to talk to the dog’s owner.”
Engler said animal complaint calls are low priority for patrol officers and response times can get lengthy.
Andersen said she understands that, but would like officers to help when they do arrive.
“If I had the resources to move I would do it because it is unbearable,” she said. “It is like living in a nightmare. But my real estate agent said all the neighborhoods are like this.”
Engler said they would try to respond to issues as quickly as possible.
On average, they get a few animal calls a day. When Tanner retires later this month after 12 years with the PPD, the town will look for a replacement.
Andersen said she cannot wait. “I for one will continue to complain and call out these irresponsible owners,” she said.
On the county side, Gila County posted an ad last week for a new animal control officer. The county keeps two animal control officers stationed in Payson to cover the northern half of the county, including Pine, Strawberry and Star Valley.
Like Payson, Gila County’s animal control officers handle roughly one call a day this time of year, said John Castaneda, Gila County’s animal regulations enforcement manager. During summer, however, that number can double.
Officers handle barking dogs in neighborhoods, loose dogs on the highway and skunk and bat removal.
When someone calls with a complaint they try to answer it quickly, he said.
“If someone calls about a barking dog that is not barking when officers arrive, we launch an investigation. If that means coming back at night, we do it,” he said.
Michael O’Driscoll, director of Gila County’s health and emergency management, said the county has great animal control officers. In fact, the officers often go around the state training other officers.
The county also takes dog complaints online. Instead of calling and leaving a message, residents can visit www.animalservice request.com, fill out their information, their complaint and it is forwarded to an officer.
Payson and the county take all strays to the Humane Society of Central Arizona.