OKANOGAN – In the wake of a rash of animal neglect seizures last winter and an attack on goats last week by a pack of dogs, a pilot animal control program is being started by the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office.
“We have known for some time that Okanogan County is in need of some sort of animal control,” Sheriff Frank Rogers said. “There has never been any funding available to support this program despite the ever increasing number of animal complaints over the last 10 years.”
Deputies handle an average of 700-800 animal calls a year, ranging from nuisance calls such as animals at large, barking dogs or depositing waste to more serious complaints such as animal abuse, animal cruelty and, more recently, numerous complaints involving wolves.
During the winter, the Sheriff’s Office seized a variety of neglected dogs, horses and cattle in several cases. Last week, a pack of dogs killed several goats in the Tonasket area.
Between April 27 and May 2, the Sheriff’s Office responded to reports of a stray near Omak; dog bite on county Highway 7, Tonasket; stray horse on Engh Road, Omak; leash law question on Engh Road, Omak; stray animal on Riverside Cutoff Road, Riverside; vicious dog trapping a woman in her car on state Highway 17, Bridgeport; stray horse on Jasmine Street, Omak; stray cow on Old Riverside Highway, Riverside; sick horse on Jasmine Street, omak; stray dog and possible harassment on Old Burnham Road, Oroville; aggressive dog on West First Street, Riverside; stray dog chasing a pony on Greenacres Road, Riverside, and a vicious dog killing another dog on state Highway 20 west of Republic.
The pilot program will begin June 1. There is no additional funding for the position.
“We will be using our existing budget to try and make this work,” Rogers said. “This will be accomplished by using one of our existing deputies, who will be assigned to handle all animal control issues.”
Deputy Dave Yarnell will retain his full commission and ability to work up cases, make seizures and arrests, but also will get animal control duties.
“His primary duties will be to handle all animal complaints, especially when it comes to livestock that is neglected,” Rogers said.
“In dealing with the wolf complaints, deputy Yarnell will receive specialized training in these areas, including what to look for in attacks on livestock.”
He will work with cattlemen and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife when it comes to predatory kills.
In addition, Rogers’ emergency management division is putting together a plan in case of a disaster in which livestock is put in danger.
Volunteers will be used to assist in processing animal complaints, he said.
“As this program progresses, we are hoping to partner with local veterinary, try to obtain or work out areas in each part of the county where animals can be housed when they are seized by law enforcement and to work closer with the Prosecutor’s Office for faster convictions and to work on obtaining restitution from suspects in animal neglect cases,” he said.
He said assigning Yarnell to handle animal complaints will free up other deputies’ time to work on other cases. Rogers said he planned to discuss the program with county commissioners on May 7.