Molly Waters: Does city need 2 animal control officers?
I just read the July 6 article in the Steamboat Today about increasing fines for dog-related violations, proposed by one of the two animal control officers and a city prosecutor. Here is my 2 cents:
Prior to May of 2015, the animal control officers (who are part of our police department) spent a great deal of their days cleaning and running the animal shelter. But when the Humane Society took over shelter operations last May, the animal control officers found themselves with “much more time” on their hands, as the article states.
So, what to do with this time? Apparently, they are looking for ways to increase their job security and justify their two full-time positions.
In 2013, the budget for animal control salaries and benefits was $168,190. This number was calculated when the animal control officers worked in the shelter about 50 percent of their days. The animal control officers no longer work in the shelter and have been on some sort of job-justification mission ever since.
In short, they have nothing better to do than drive around and create a fictitious solution to correct non-issues (such as dangerous dogs roaming the streets and owners in desperate need of leash-law education) so that it appears that we need two full-time animal control officers.
What has ensued, is a sort of witch hunt that has created great animosity toward the animal control officers. I, myself, was approached while I was skiing with my family. I didn’t even have my dog with me, and the animal control officer who approached me was off-duty.
Still, she felt no qualms about walking right up to me and telling me that she had seen my son in front of my house with our dog. This is a 7-pound dog who cannot navigate deep snow, so they were standing in our quiet, dead-end street, so my dog could relieve himself. She told me “you have been warned,” in a very stern manner.
This heavy-handed approach by this animal control officer goes against the culture of Steamboat Springs. This approach is rampant among police departments across the country, and although this situation is not the same as police brutality, the spirit is the same: it’s the cops versus you.
Before the vote on July 19, I urge council to take a close look at the animal control payroll, job duties and number of actual dangerous dog-human or dog-dog incidences. Yes, they bring in money to the city by way of citations ($100,000/year on average) but is that enough to justify having two full-time police officers with a lot of time on their hands?
One final note, Steamboat Springs does not have a resource officer in any of our schools. Yet we pay two full-time animal control officers to patrol the streets, hike Emerald Mountain, move sheep from patios and generally look for things to do.
So which is more likely: violence in our schools? Or a rampant pack of dogs endangering our citizens? How do we really want to spend our tax dollars?
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