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County quits catching stray dogs
A young lab mix was acquired and put up for adoption at Paws for Life Animal League in Riverton after her owner was incarcerated in the Fremont County Detention Center. The county annex at the center was built with last year's Fremont County Commission funding. Photo by Wayne Nicholls

County quits catching stray dogs

Nov 7, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Fremont County stopped collecting stray dogs Oct. 25 because the Fremont County Sheriff's Office says it has nowhere to impound them. The county says it will continue to pick up vicious animals.

Fremont County Commissioners discussed the situation at their Nov. 5 meeting and decided to rely on hope that a group of concerned community members forms to investigate possible solutions.

Stray dogs are a big issue for the Fremont County Sheriff's office.

"This has become the No. 1 call for service for my deputies," Sheriff Skip Hornecker said at the meeting, referring to all animal calls. "My deputies are not dog catchers."

Until recently, Paws for Life Animal League in Riverton and veterinarian Rich Boulette of Lander had been housing stray dogs the sheriff's office collected.

"A week ago yesterday I got a call from Paws that they had depleted all of the funding provided by the (Fremont County) Commission," Hornecker said in a Nov. 1 interview. "Unfortunately that was the same day Boulette determined he could no longer take impounds."

Paws received $6,000 from Fremont County for the current fiscal year, which runs July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014. The organization had asked for $12,000 from the commission.

Paws board member Kent Moss said housing county strays costs roughly $12,000 a year. The shelter charges the county $10 a day per dog for 14 days. After that period, Paws pays all costs.

Paws received the $6,000, and then counted the costs of housing strays against that money until the sum ran out.

Commission chairman Doug Thompson thought the commission's contribution several years ago to Paws to build separate

kennels for county strays guaranteed the organization would take the animals. At the meeting, he said the county was not paying a daily cost for each dog.

"When we gave that original amount of money, they said they would take our animals until our money stops paying," he said. "That looks like they're going back on their deal with us."

Paws understood the arrangement differently, Moss said. The county gave funds for the shelter with the understanding it could use them as it saw fit, he said.

Paws received $48,000 from the county in 2008, the year it started taking strays for the sheriff's office. The shelter used those funds to pay the daily boarding costs and veterinarian fees for county strays.

Paws did not receive more county funds until 2012, when it got $12,000. Moss said. Paws used those funds for boarding fees and to build roofs over some dog kennels.

In 2013, the county gave the $6,000 to the shelter.

A fire severely damaged Boulette's veterinary clinic July 9, affecting his ability to house strays. The veterinarian's situation has affected the City of Lander as well.

Boulette also had housed strays for Lander, but said he stopped that service as of Oct. 25.

Lander Mayor Mick Wolfe, however, said the city's contract with Boulette is still in effect.

Known problem

Paws and the county were forewarned that the money would run out.

"We were aware based on the funding we received in July that we probably wouldn't make it a whole year," Moss said. "It just happened a little sooner than we would have liked."

Moss said his organization told the sheriff ahead of time that Paws would run out of funding to take county strays at some point and gave the word when the shelter could not accept more.

The Riverton shelter continues to provide some services for the county. For instance, Paws will keep housing the strays it accepted before that date but will not take in any more, Paws board member Pamela Canham said in an interview.

The sheriff made an arrangement with Paws for the shelter to continue housing animals that pose a danger to the public and ones involved in criminal investigations, he said. The organization will bill his office directly for the service.

Solutions

Hornecker at the meeting said one solution would be to develop "good contracts" with kenneling organizations. Another would be to create an animal control special district that would be able to raise revenue through its own mill levy.

Commissioners asked the sheriff to see if citizens concerned with the stray dogs would form a committee to investigate solutions with all the parties involved.