For the week of August 4, 1999  thru August 10, 1999  

Dogs-at-large challenge law enforcement

Express Staff Writer

If Rover roves without a leash in the Wood River Valley, he’s breaking the law and could be "arrested."

Kevin McMullin, animal control officer for Hailey and Blaine County, gave a talk on Thursday in Hailey on the dog leash law and other parts of the animal control ordinances that apply in Hailey and the county.

"When your dog is off your property, it’s mine," said McMullin. "The shelter is full because I keep it full."

A stray dog—or "dog at large"—is defined in the ordinances as a dog that is off the owner’s property and not under the immediate control of the owner or another "keeper."

Immediate control refers to use of a leash or verbal command if the dog is within 10 feet of the owner.

A dog may not be unleashed in a city park or on school grounds, according to the ordinances.

Even though McMullin has already impounded 104 stray dogs this year, he’s not anti-dog.

"I love animals," McMullin said. "That’s why I took this job. It’s about keeping people safe and keeping animals safe."

McMullin has been dividing his time as animal control officer between Blaine County and Hailey for seven years.

The cities of Ketchum and Bellevue have almost identical animal control policies. Ketchum has a full-time animal control officer, but Bellevue does not.

Bellevue Marshal Jeff Gunter announced last week that the city would step up enforcement of its animal control ordinance because of a growing number of dogs at large.

"All dogs that can be impounded will be impounded," Gunter said. "The owner of the dog will be cited for the dog running at large, which is a misdemeanor and usually carries a $100 fine for the first offense."

In Ketchum, Hailey and Blaine County, the ordinances are similar regarding fines. If cited, the owner must go to court and a judge will determine the fine. In addition, transportation fees will be assessed as well as impound fees from the Blaine County Animal Shelter.

"I’m not cheap," McMullin said.

In most cases, owners of impounded dogs at large are not cited and pay only transportation and impound fees.

Ketchum Police Chief Cal Nevland said the Ketchum animal control program is effective.

"The number of calls is going down as far as dogs being a problem," Nevland said.

Retrieving dogs at large keeps McMullin the busiest, but his job entails a long list of duties.

McMullin, who has studied animal behavior and control at various academies, educates children about responsible pet ownership and assists police on calls where dogs might pose a threat.

"The Drug Task Force scoops the people, and I scoop the dog," said McMullin, who is often the first to enter the premises of drug-dealing suspects. "Thank God, most of the dogs have been good."

Luckily for the impounded dogs, the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley in May implemented a no-kill policy, which will keep dogs, cats and any other animals in the shelter’s care until the owner can be found or until they can be adopted.

Eight full-time and four part-time employees and volunteers provide care for the approximately 90 dogs and cats at the shelter.


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