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Let's make a deal

Editorial for March 6, 2008

Late last year, the Bingen City Council voted unanimously to approve an innovative contract with the Goldendale Police Department. The deal brings the city of Bingen something its residents have long wanted: An animal control officer to patrol the city and help enforce ordinances against dogs running loose, to take care of potentially dangerous dogs, and to deal with whatever other problems with animals may come up.

Further -- and this is a huge plus -- as part of the deal, the city of Bingen will be able to take impounded animals to Goldendale's animal shelter.

For $15,000 per year, the city of Bingen now effectively has an animal control officer to handle problems and to help educate local citizens about the city's ordinances regarding dogs and other animals. Bingen also has access to that long-discussed, long-sought animal shelter, which has always proven too expensive for the Bingen-White Salmon area to build.

Officers of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department are not specifically trained to handle vicious animals, and their patrol vehicles are not designed or equipped to transport dogs. And where can they take problem animals? The police have been relying on the good services of Alpine Veterinary Clinic to house dogs. Alpine has gone "above and beyond the call of duty" to help out, but it is not geared toward being an impound facility.

For many years, the communities of White Salmon and Bingen have tried to find a solution to deal with loose dogs and/or dangerous dogs. They have asked the county for help, considered pooling their annual Economic Development Authority landfill grants to get an animal shelter built, and have looked across the river to Hood River County for a solution. Nothing has worked, because the costs, space limitations, or contract problems have always put a kink in possible deals. Until now.

Tom Fitzgibbons, the officer who will handle the assignment in Bingen, learned his animal control skills at the Police Academy, and has six years of experience since. He is well-trained and well-equipped for his role, and he will likely be a huge asset to the city of Bingen.

Officer Fitzgibbons is expected to patrol twice a week on different days, and he will also be on call and available to come to Bingen in the event of any emergency situations.

By agreeing to this deal with the Goldendale Police Department, Bingen has moved, decisively and wisely, to take action on a long-festering problem.

The big question is, why has White Salmon not made its own contract arrangement? Citizens of White Salmon, over many years, have come to City Council meetings and urged the city to take action on this issue, which has flared up from time to time.

The community has been lucky that no one has been mauled by a dog running loose. But dogs and cats have been killed by dangerous dogs, and having a reliable resource to assist in dealing with these cases -- and having an adequate facility to take problem animals to -- is long overdue.

Sure, the city's budget is tight, and $15,000 is $15,000. But for what White Salmon would gain, the cost is pretty minimal. This is the classic "no-brainer."

We urge the city of White Salmon to act soon to make a deal for animal control services along the lines of what Bingen has done. This approach is likely to be the best deal the city will ever see for finally addressing this serious concern.



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