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Dog dumping far too common in rural areas of Yakima County

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After two weeks, a young mix-breed dog Mike Miller calls Hoppy is still at his home outside Sunnyside. Hoppy is the 10th dog to be dumped out by Miller's farm since January, a growing problem he feels the county should take some responsibility for.

Hoppy and Oreo were found near Mike Miller's Sunnyside area home nearly two weeks ago. Hoppy, a mixed breed that was injured, and Oreo, a dog that looked much like the dog from the television show "Our Gang," were not vicious or mean tempered.

Oreo had no signs of abuse, unlike Hoppy, but the two dogs rounded out the number of animals found at Airport Ranches since January to 10.

Unwilling to destroy the dogs himself, Miller took the animals to the Humane Society of Central Washington this past weekend to see if they could be adopted, but a short time later returned home, dogs in tow.

"They didn't have room for the dogs without killing two other dogs," said Miller.

Rather than having two dogs put down, he brought the animals found on his farm back to his home.

Since the weekend, Oreo has left Miller's place. A dog that didn't show signs of abuse, he believes the dog was found by his family, but the dog he calls Hoppy is still living in his garage. Miller's wife had also been feeding two dogs that had been living in a drain pipe up the road until they disappeared a couple of days ago.

"I don't want them to suffer," he said, adding that he believes a neighbor, who was also feeding the animals, may have adopted them. He added that it's when dumped animals begin to go hungry that they start hunting cats, chickens and livestock for food.

"It's a serious problem and one I don't think the county wants to address," said Miller.

Each fall and again in the spring the number of dogs dumped near Miller's home skyrockets, but with county budget cuts, the responsibility of finding a place for the animals dumped in the county falls on residents in the area. He estimates that it would have cost him close to $100 to drop off the animals at the Humane Society had they accepted them.

Miller believes that the county should pick up some of the slack in the responsibility for dumped dogs.

"The county is charging every pet owner in the county dog license fees to support a dog catcher," said Miller, adding that he believes this is a case of taxation without representation.

He added that in the financial crunch, the county stopped its support of the humane society, forcing the group dedicated to finding homes for animals to cut back on the number of animals it can handle.

The county's "dog catcher" focuses on vicious animals.

Every year thousands of animals are housed at the Humane Society of Central Washington, which is located in Yakima. Only a small percentage of those animals are classified as vicious, according to Alan Landvoy, the executive director of the Humane Society of Central Washington.

Stray and wandering dogs are picked up by the animal control officer assigned to Sunnyside, but for those living in the county, animal control is not as accommodating.

The Yakima County Sheriff's office has an animal control officer, but the officer can only pick up vicious animals, not those that have the highest likelihood of being adopted.

Landvoy said in 2004, 6,500 animals were brought to the shelter.

Although the city of Yakima and other communities that contract with the humane society fill up many of the vacant spots in the pens, there is a significant number of animals that are dumped off in the county, left to fend for themselves and as a burden on county residents.

"We really wish people didn't dump animals," said Landvoy.

He suggests that those living in the county should try to either adopt the animal themselves or check and see if a neighbor or someone in the community can adopt the animal.

"We don't have any authority in the county and the sheriff's office does not pick up strays," said Landvoy.

County residents who are unable to adopt an animal themselves are required to take dumped animals to the humane society, themselves.

The warmer the weather the more unwanted pets, animal control officer Andreas Dismann locates within the Sunnyside city limits.

He averages picking up more than 22 animals a month, but in the winter months he said there were two weeks when he didn't receive a single call.

Although Dismann is only allowed to pick up animals within the city limits, the same patterns go for those living in the county. More and more animals are dumped off during the warmer weather.

Back at Miller's home, he is trying to find a home for Hoppy. Anyone interested can call 837-5325 and leave a message.

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