An impound option for dealing with dogs was renewed between Crow Wing County and the Heartland Animal Rescue Team extending through this year.
But what happens after that is likely to be debated. The board discussed the issue Tuesday.
"This has been a nightmare since I came on the county board," said Commissioner Dewey Tautges.
In 2006, the board restructured its dog ordinance to include townships willing to pay a per-capita fee. Townships unwilling to pay would not have the service regarding complaints of nuisance dogs. Issues of dangerous dogs are handled by the sheriff's department.
Administrator David Hamilton said letters to three cities, inviting them to participate, were sent by mistake since the ordinance doesn't cover cities. Crosslake, Crosby and Ironton participated after receiving the letters. But Hamilton recommended discontinuing the service to the cities, which are not mentioned in the county ordinance. The board agreed.
Hamilton characterized the current situation as a patchwork that is confusing to the public and law enforcement dispatchers who typically handle the animal complaint calls. After meeting last month with law enforcement, Hamilton said the group recommended a countywide policy. But, pressed for time as Hamilton prepares to leave the area for his new job in Florida, he brought up the contract renewal issue for now.
Tautges said a good resident who takes a stray dog to HART to save it shouldn't have to pay to leave it there.
"It doesn't make any sense the way it's working," Tautges said. "We have townships that pay and townships that refuse to pay."
Representing a rural district, Tautges said people request a dog catcher. And while the 2006 plan specified townships that didn't pay would not get the service, Tautges said that hasn't always been the case.
Tautges, who said he likes animals, said the total answer is a countywide ordinance. Hamilton said the options of a countywide policy could be looked at by the leadership team before a new administrator is in place here.
Commissioner Paul Thiede said he doesn't care for animals and doesn't have cats or dogs.
"Writing an ordinance that solves the problem is not going to be easy no matter what we do," Thiede said.
There have been more cats picked up than dogs and the ordinance doesn't mention cats, Thiede said. The resources for the dog ordinance are not necessarily being used for dogs, Thiede said.
"Those of us who are tax-paying citizens, who don't see responsible cat and pet owners, don't necessarily feel warmly embracing of supporting an effort where we have to pay for them," Thiede said. "I believe this is a big issue."
Penalizing people who take in a stray animal to a shelter doesn't reach the people who are breaking leash laws in the first place, Thiede said.
HART, Hamilton reported, is looking into providing both enforcement and impound services. But that option is not expected to be an option until later in the year.
The contract allows the animal control officer or Sheriff's Department to take a dog in for holding 24 hours a day. A dog may be impounded for seven days. An owner may collect their dog and pay the fees or HART may term the dog is adoptable and keep it. If not deemed adoptable, contract language the dog is euthanized at the county's expense.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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