Animal control officers are spending more time chasing loose dogs, and owners are to blame, official

Dealing with roaming dogs consumes most of Mesa County Animal Services officers’ time.

Dogs-at-large calls were 42 percent of Mesa County Animal Services’ caseload in 2007. In 2008, chasing down loose canines consumed 48 percent of the workload, according to Animal Services’ 2008 annual report.

Dogs on the loose can harass people and pets, and they can cause accidents by darting out into traffic, do damage to domesticated livestock and deplete the energy reserves of wild animals.

“All of the problems that we see from dogs come from one specific action, and that is the owner does not confine their dog,” Animal Services Director Penny McCarty said. “The owner is responsible for keeping the animal safe and the community safe.”

Often the problem of dogs running wild comes from owners who take in more animals than they can handle.

“Some say one dog is good and two is better, but when they have three they must be a very responsible pet owner,” McCarty said. “Being a pet owner has the potential to have an impact on everyone in the community.”

Dogs go wild quickly. Away from human interaction, dogs may rediscover their natural instincts and develop a pack mentality. A recent example came earlier this month when a
Garfield County woman’s llama was attacked by dogs, and she needed to take the llama to the Amigo Animal Clinic in Grand Junction.

“It is a tremendous problem, not just in Garfield County ... As the weather warms up, dogs spend more time outdoors,” said Randy Hampton, Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman.

“People say, ‘Oh, my dog would not do that.’ But dogs have some natural instincts as well that might surprise their owners.”

Hampton said wild dogs don’t ordinarily kill larger animals, but they can harass them and force them to expend energy reserves that might otherwise allow them to get through the last few cold weeks of the year.

“So far this year, I have heard from at least eight of my wildlife officers (in northwest Colorado) experiencing this problem,” he said.

The DOW is responsible for agricultural losses, including livestock, that are lost to mountain lions and bears.

If a dog kills a wild animal, such as a deer, the owner could be subject to fines under state law. Animal Services had a case like that last year in which a dog killed a deer, McCarty said.

Officers were able to track down the owner, who was fined, she said.

“Whether it be deer or horses or chasing other dogs and cats, the ultimate culprit is the owner who does not keep his dogs inside,” McCarty said.


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