Town of Fraser wants to put the bite on dogs at large
September 19, 2008
The problem of loose dogs in Fraser dominated the discussion of the Fraser Town Board during its Wednesday night meeting.
The issue was raised during a presentation about guide dogs by Judy Sifers, a former Fraser Valley Elementary teacher who is now the CEO of Kansas Specialty Dogs, a company that trains guide and service dogs. She asked the board for stricter enforcement of local animal control laws to protect both the guide dogs and the disabled persons who use them.
Sifers said she was speaking in support of her friend Randi Shotwell, who is legally blind, and her guide dog Angus. Both were attacked by two roaming dogs on the Fraser River Trail on July 29.
Shotwell, who is a resident of Wapiti Meadows in Fraser, and Angus were present at Wednesday’s meeting.
If attacked by other dogs, Sifers explained that guide and service dogs are defenseless because they are bred and trained to be non-aggressive and gentle.
The physical and psychological trauma inflicted on these highly trained dogs can result in their “retirement.” When these dogs can no longer be used, it means not only the loss of a disabled person’s companion but also the loss of a $15,000 investment in that dog’s training.
“It’s a problem when people like Randi can’t walk to the store with her guide dog without an incident because of loose dogs,” Sifers said. “This is a matter of enforcement of the law.”
In response, Mayor Fran Cook suggested the town could respond with a “two rail” approach. The first is to educate the public about guide dogs while the second is improved enforcement by the hiring of a part-time animal control officer to take the loose dogs off the town’s streets.
After the guide dog discussion ended, several board members expressed their frustration with the continuing problem of loose dogs in the town, including one board member who said he was “just fed up with these d***ed dogs.”
Discussion followed with one board member suggesting the town’s leash laws be revised to double the fines for violators. Another said it was “pointless to revise the leash law until you can enforce it.” A third cautioned that while they could probably fill the room with supporters of a revised leash law, it could probably be equally filled with those opposed.
As for increased enforcement, Police Chief Glen Trainor said his department is currently seeking a part-time animal control officer because the Grand County Sheriff’s two animal control officers are “overwhelmed trying to cover a county of 1,800 square miles.” He explained that once the new animal control officer is hired, it would take about 90 days to fully train him to become effective.
Town Manager Jeff Durbin agreed, saying Trainor and he fully understood that whoever is hired for that job has to be “an animal control officer and not a dog lover.”
Mayor Cook said that once the police department’s part-time animal control officer becomes fully trained, the town board would consider revising the town’s leash laws. She tentatively set that for the board’s second meeting in February.