Some stray dogs left to roam at night in county

Animal control, police only respond if canine is dangerous, injured

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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When a teenage girl was approached by a dog with no tags Monday night in east Vancouver, she talked to only a few people before ending up at David Hentz's front door.

Hentz wasn't the dog's owner, but the former volunteer for the Humane Society for Southwest Washington is known among neighbors for either taking the time to walk the streets with stray dogs to seek out an owner or taking the strays to the Humane Society.

But what to do with a dog when it's 10 p.m. and the Humane Society is closed?

Hentz said his wife called Clark County Animal Control and received a recording telling her to call 911. A dispatcher told her that an officer would not come out and get the dog unless it was dangerous, and she could just let the dog roam. Hentz said that answer surprised him, so he called back and was told the same thing.

The dog, which Hentz said had the legs and fur of a chocolate lab and the body and head of a pit bull, was a "big goof" that came up to his knees — but was not a threat. The dog appeared to have been scared by fireworks going off in the area.

Hentz knew he couldn't bring the dog into his house because of his own aging dog, and he felt if he tried to tie up the dog in his yard. the dog would either choke itself or break free and jump the fence.

The dispatcher said it was OK to just release the dog. Hentz lives near Southeast 164th Avenue.

"If I would have released this dog, there's a good possibility he would have been hit by a car," Hentz said. "I think it's inhumane to let it loose."

While Hentz was preparing to walk the dog around the neighborhood, a vehicle pulled up on his street and the dog's owner ran up to the teenager, who was still at Hentz's door with the dog. The owner said it was her dog and she took the dog back to the vehicle. Hentz said he suspects the dog's owners didn't park in front of his home because the dog was unlicensed, which carries a $100 fine.

Hentz, who has testified against the use of personal fireworks to the Vancouver City Council, said if the city allows people to shoot them off, there should be a plan to deal with dogs that run loose because of the noise.

Clark County Animal Control Manager Paul Scarpelli said the county's four animal control officers work seven days a week, covering 600 square miles. During the evening, however, the county contracts with a private animal service that also contracts with Washington and Multnomah counties in Oregon.

Katy Myers, 911 operations division manager for Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency, said the Vancouver Police Department does not respond to calls about friendly stray dogs. The police don't respond unless the animal is vicious or injured. Likewise, the after-hours contractor for Clark County Animal Control does not respond unless the animal is injured or seriously ill, Myers said. Myers said a dispatcher did page the contractor after Hentz's call to confirm that he would not be able to respond.

The preferred situation, Myers said, is for someone to keep the dog overnight and then take the dog to the Humane Society.

Stacey Waddell, interim executive director for the Humane Society, said the shelter's hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Clark County Animal Control, however, has 24-hour access to the shelter.

Spooked pets

The Labrador retriever-pit bull mix that showed up at Hentz's door wasn't alone in being scared by fireworks.

Waddell said that between July 1 and 4, 40 stray dogs were dropped off at the shelter, 1100 N.E. 192nd Ave. That's five more dogs than were dropped off during the same four days last year.

Typically, the Humane Society receives 300 dogs a month, but about half of those are surrendered by their owners, so about 150 are strays, Waddell said. That averages out to 20 dogs in a four-day period.

Scarpelli said two animal control officers worked on the Fourth of July and responded to 36 calls -- a small number -- and none of the calls were emergencies.

Scarpelli said the office typically gets more fireworks-related calls on the evening of July 5, when people are (illegally, in most parts of the county) still setting off fireworks. People take care to either medicate their pets on the Fourth or put them in the basement, he said, and then get caught off-guard.

That's how it works at the Humane Society, too, Waddell said. Last year, an additional 16 dogs were brought in on July 5 and 6.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.