LOST PET?

Losing a pet in Klickitat County can be dangerous for the animal and nerve-wracking for the owner. There is a solution.

I would like to catch Sentinel readers up with the current state of animal service in both Klickitat County and the City of Goldendale. Complaints about living conditions in the city owned Goldendale dog pound, received in November ultimately led to Police Chief Jay Hunziker inspecting the premises. Based on his findings, a meeting was held between the police chief, city management, and Lisa Mabrey, who had held a contract allowing her free use of the city-owned building to house dogs for resale as long as one kennel was maintained for City of Goldendale police to use in case of the need to impound an aggressive dog. At this meeting, the City of Goldendale chose not to renew the contract with Mabrey, which had already expired some months past.

Conditions in the building housing the dogs were so bad that Hunziker stated, “It is not going to be used to hold animals again.” Extensive rodent control and safety measures will need to be taken before it can see any type of use. Mabrey has been given until Dec. 31 to remove her remaining dogs from the premises.

Comments received by The Sentinel indicated that some people were confused about the difference between a private individual running a dog rescue and a government jurisdiction such as the City of Goldendale or Klickitat County being equipped to house the community's stray dogs. Mabrey’s operation, “Dogs of the Gorge,” was originally set up as a not-for-profit 501C3—though her nonprofit status in Washington expired March 3 of this year. (As a registered nonprofit animal “rescue,” she was able to procure and resale animals to the public. This she could do as long as her IRS status is in order and she was able to house the animals in safe, humane conditions.) Due to the shortage of dogs in shelters nationwide, exacerbated by an increase in spay/neuter compliance, Dogs of the Gorge, like thousands of small rescues, had turned to procuring their dogs from a network of shelters, which send truckloads of dogs to anyone who would take them. Investigation into the vetting of those receiving the dogs across the country showed a troubling lack of accountability and concern for the animal’s welfare.

Many rescues, recognizing the high stress associated with being kenneled for long periods of time, utilize a system of “foster homes,” where homeless dogs are taken into a household and treated as a family pet while awaiting placement with a new owner. This is considered far superior to the long-term boarding in a kennel building. Foster homes are instrumental in teaching the dogs manners, how to be clean in the house, and to get along with other types of animals.

Earlier this summer I wrote two articles in The Sentinel outlining my concern about the shelter situation as it stood in Goldendale, asking for help from the community to form a task force to address the issues, and outlining how I thought both the city and county could work together to solve the issue of just where to safely house stray, lost or dangerous dogs. At the time, little interest was generated in the project, but those committed to this ideal are moving forward.

IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM:

To put into perspective, just what is at stake, imagine today you are driving to town with your canine pal sitting beside you on the truck seat, glad to be going along—she knows not where. It’s cold, and the ice on Bickleton Highway is treacherous in the shadows. An approaching truck starts to glide into your lane, and before you can do anything, the horrific crash breaks window glass and flips your truck. You are dazed and don’t notice for a moment that your dog—terrified by the crash—has scrambled up and out of the broken window and is streaking like a scared coyote for the horizon.

Hopefully your best friend has a sturdy, snug fitting collar with an ID tag bolted to it. With this, the first good Samaritan the dog approaches can call you and—you’re reunited! If not that, perhaps a microchip? A dog savvy motorist picks up the pooch some miles away and takes it to the veterinarian’s office where the dog is scanned and finds the chip—and the owner! A great ending, with no government assistance needed.

But far too many dogs never receive a collar or microchip, and when they get lost—they are lost. Almost everyone knows that hollow, icky feeling when you can’t find your friend dog. Miles from the crash, still spooked and wary and afraid, your dog stands in the middle of the road, confused. At last, as the sun is sinking, and the temperature really starts to sink, a vehicle slows down, the door opens, and a friendly voice invites the dog to get in. Now what? How do you find each other?

Today in Klickitat County, there is nothing offered to dog owners to help reunite them with their hunting buddy, livestock guardian or herding dog, home protector, show dog, or, most important of all, loyal, loving, family companion. There are no leash laws in the county, so technically, there are no stray dogs. Only if a dog is attacking livestock or humans or is seriously injured will a deputy respond. But your lost dog is on her own.

Those who take the time and effort to help a lost dog take upon themselves the full responsibility for the dog. They must decide where and how to announce that the dog is found. They must watch the paper’s Lost and Found column, report the dog to the local veterinarians; or at least the dog owner hopes their dog’s savior will do all this! If not, how else to hook up with each other? State law is vague on just how long a stray dog must be help by a citizen before it can be claimed by another.

For the dog owner, there is no comfort. Is his dog somewhere warm? If it safe from other dogs?

In the City of Goldendale, the dog is a bit luckier. If picked up within city limits if the animal control officer is available, today the dog will be taken to the Goldendale Veterinarian clinic, where it will be warm, given water and food, emergency medical care if needed, and slowly, as word spreads through the community, citizens will know to look at the vet clinic for their lost dog.

THE SOLUTION:

The quick, easy and inexpensive solution for a community this size is a single shelter location, a modest set up that offers the lost dog a warm, dry, safe place to stay while his owner finds him and offers the dog owner some piece of mind that his dog is well cared for while he searches for her. And with one central location serving both communities, all confusion is removed. Currently a lost dog can end up in The Dalles shelter, in a private home somewhere, or at one of literally thousands of private “rescues”—awaiting transport across state lines.

I’ve put together packets of information for both the city and county management to show them that putting together a small, safe, secure, and comfortable holding facility for the communities lost dogs is not as daunting as they seem to think. The county didn’t blink at spending over $6,000 for one dog kennel for their one police dog—I would think they could contemplate spending just a bit more for a structure to house up to four to eight of the taxpayers’ lost dogs.

I find most “country folk” love dogs—love most animals. I find the folks in Goldendale and Klickitat County to be no exception. Love for dogs runs deep, and I believe ultimately the citizens will support the idea of a municipal shelter that can grow as the region grows.