MABTON - Following concerns expressed at the Sept. 26 Mabton City Council meeting, the city has strengthened its animal control policies through a partnership between the police department and public works.
This past year, public works was in charge of animal control. Because public works employees aren't allowed to carry guns, the most they could do with a dangerous dog was attempt to catch it in a cage.
The Mabton Police Department will now oversee animal control and budget the program for costs. Public works will provide personnel at times and equipment to impound animals. Public works will also provide care and custody for the animals, as well as monitor the animals when a dog bite occurs.
"We're trying to come together and help each other," said Mayor Velva Hererra.
The purpose of the monitoring is to report back to the Yakima County health department, alerting them to potential illness caused by a bite.
According to Interim Police Chief Robert Perales, a report is usually submitted by the hospital. Now, the police and public works will submit the report within 24 hours should an incident like that occur.
Perales said that prior to the changes, there was nothing formal as to who did what. The plan, he says, "just makes common sense when we've got what we've got as far as personnel."
Prior to the changes, Perales said animal control wasn't enforced much by either department. "I showed them a plan and everybody was happy with it."
Also now in writing is that if officers make contact with a dangerous dog, the officer may resort to deadly force and destroy the animal.
"Only an officer is capable of handling a situation like that," said Perales. "He's got the training to survey the situation in consideration of a backstop (where bullets are going to fly)."
Only officers can discharge weapons inside city limits.
Police will also now be responsible for animal license enforcement, as well as enforcement of all animal related ordinances, like the keeping of livestock and fowl.
With regard to complaints and reports of loose animals or animals at large, an animal owner will recieve a verbal warning on the first offense. A second offense involving the same animal will result in a citation being issued.
When animal problem calls come in, the police will respond. Once the problem is verified, police will call on public works to cage and transport animals to the holding facility.
Perales said, "I know they have quite a big dog problem, but we're making a good impact on it."