About four years ago, my suburban--or exurban, I've never been able to figure out which--city in North San Diego County switched its contract for animal law enforcement from County Animal Control to a neighboring city's non-profit humane society.
The reason for the change was dramatically escalating charges by County Animal Control accompanied by what was perceived as a deterioration of service.
The humane society contracted to provide the same services for considerably less money.
Flash forward four years. Four years in which three of my dogs and my husband were attacked by by the same neighbor's dog on two separate occasions. The attacking dog was euthanized after the second attack and my beautiful Portia died while being treated for a massive wound. The deaths of both dogs, in my opinion, were the result of an overwhelmed agency selectively enforcing laws pertaining to dogs and people.
The humane society which originally quoted a comparatively low price for leash law enforcement is now requesting well over a half million dollars for the next fiscal year. They are now contracted to provide enforcement for a total of four jurisdictions and apparently have not increased their thinly spread staff to cover hundreds of square miles of urban, suburban and rural territory.
Something has to change.
On my way to share my experiences of attacks by unleashed dogs with the City Council, I stopped by my polling place to vote in the California Primary Election. During the brief time I was voting, TWO unleashed dogs approached the garage where I was voting and had altercations with a leashed dog who was in a voting booth with its owner.
San Marcos, we have a problem.
Two friends from my block and I made short statements to the City Council about our experiences with unleashed dogs and interactions with our current enforcement agency. Members of the Council listened and seemed to be engaged with the problems we presented.
The Council is reluctant to spend over half million dollars for what is clearly inadequate enforcement. And, while our city has been out of County Animal Control's enforcement area, their charges have continued to rise while enforcement has become problematic. Returning to their jurisdiction is not a viable option.
Things look bleak for those of us who say a prayer for safety every time we leash up our dogs and take them out for a walk.
But there is some hope. Our city is in discussion with two other North County cities about setting up an enforcement entity among the cities.
I'm really, really trying not to be too optimistic. But I must say, I love this concept. The current system of laws covering humans and their responsibilities toward their dogs, and the enforcement of those laws, is broken, broken, broken.
San Diego County, like most highly populated counties which cover a very large geographical area containing urban, suburban and rural areas, is just too much for one or even two animal control entities. I understand that it a major break in precedent, but the time has come to bring these services closer to the population served. And that means cities and municipalities MUST take over the responsibility for keeping dog walkers and pedestrians safe from unleashed dogs.
AND, if our local councils can be persuaded to take a fresh look at the laws from a perspective of consequences, deterrence and education, I believe a structure can be put in place that will defray a large amount of the costs of enforcement.