This area is overdue to have an animal control officer, and overdue to build an animal control facility.
Tragically, it is probably just a question of when -- not if -- someone will be attacked by a dog on the loose in our communities.
Last week, a member of the Bingen City Council reported that two large dogs came at her while she was pushing her baby stroller in Bingen. It's an outrage when a mother walking her newborn baby on a public sidewalk has to worry about being attacked by dogs. It's not fair that some dog owners in those areas where required do not make sure their dogs are in a well-fenced yard or on a strong leash. No one should have to worry about being attacked for jogging or riding a bicycle.
Last year, a pet dog was killed in White Salmon -- while in its own yard -- by two dogs on the loose. And too often, we've seen news reports of children across the nation being mauled for being in the wrong place, near the wrong dog.
Of course, building a dog pound would not guarantee that no dog attacks would take place. And having a part-time animal control officer on the job would not result in an end to dogs running wild. But it would help, and it would give citizens somewhere to turn.
The county would benefit also, as it would have a place to take any animals impounded from the areas covered by the county's animal control ordinance: Dallesport, Lyle, Glenwood, Wishram, Klickitat, and Roosevelt.
Local police officers and deputies of the Klickitat County Sheriff's Office do their best, given what tools they have at their disposal. But police cars are not intended, nor designed, to transport dogs, and there is no suitable place to take an animal in any case.
Law enforcement officers have been diligent in responding to animal calls, but they need help and support. When they are able to, the police have fined dog owners for having their dogs on the loose. But the deck is stacked against the police: dogs often run off before an officer can respond; owners deny their dog was loose or deny it's their dog; and the police have many other calls to deal with.
The Bingen-White Salmon Police Department's activity report for the month of April 2002 shows that officers responded to 176 calls. Of those, 15 calls were related to animal complaints. That works out to be 11.7 percent of all the police calls in the month. In March, 12.5 percent of the local police calls were related to animals. That's a lot of time chasing dogs.
The mayors of White Salmon and Bingen are willing to contribute to an animal control facility, and see the need for a part-time officer, but due to the costs, support (or lack thereof) from the county will make or break this endeavor.
Once again, we have to wonder why, with Klickitat County taking in a guaranteed $6.2 million a year in landfill revenue, a very tiny bit of that can't go to contribute to badly-needed, long-discussed projects such as this one.
An officer who can devote his or her time, and is properly equipped, to handle loose dogs and other potentially dangerous animals is not a luxury. It is something that is needed around here.