The City of Blanco has had an ordinance since 1991 that provides penalties for dogs running at large, dogs that have not had rabies shots, and dogs not wearing identification tags. However, just a casual drive through the city will yield numerous sightings of dogs running through vacant lots or down the street, causing a potential hazard to themselves, to motorists, cyclists, or pedestrians. Police Chief Michael Ritchey has received three complaints recently from pedestrians walking to exercise class who have felt threatened by dogs running loose. If someone is bitten by an unidentified dog that cannot be apprehended, the bite victim will have to pay for rabies shots—a costly and painful process.
Chief Ritchey hopes to improve the situation by enforcing the ordinance more strictly. The penalty for any of the violations is a fine of up to $500 per day. In the past, complaints about these animals have come to the police department, and officers have had to locate the animal, verify the identity of the owner, locate him or her, and assess the fine—a sometimes lengthy and frustrating endeavor. As one city employee verified, owners will sometimes deny their ownership if the dog has no tag. In hopes of simplifying the process and making better use of Blanco’s limited police power, Chief Ritchey will be suggesting to city council members at their January meeting that city public works department employees be used to apprehend the animals. The after-hours rate for city employees is $35 per hour. He also asks for the help of anyone who sees a dog running at large to detain the animal and notify the police.
“I’m working for taxpayers,” says Chief Ritchey. “I’m trying to find ways to save them money.” The municipal court judge will have the power to levy a fine for restitution for the time taken to apprehend and transport dogs to the veterinary clinic. In addition, the vet clinic bills the city directly for boarding dogs, although they are euthanized after three days if they are not picked up by their owners. In a recent month, Blanco taxpayers paid $380 for dogs picked up, boarded, and euthanized.
Chief Ritchey has spoken to the judge, to city council members, and to the veterinary clinic in order to coordinate efforts to make the city safer for all its citizens—human and canine. Council will discuss the matter at their January meeting.