YERINGTON - Moving animal control to another county department is the solution being proposed for stray pets in Lyon County, but the question of cost is still dogging county commissioners.
They put off a decision this week on moving dog-catching duties from the Sheriff's Department to the Public Works Department until the expenses are figured.
"I am reluctant to move in this direction today," said Commissioner David Fulstone. "I want to give it more time for discussion. I am not necessarily opposed, but I would like to see the costs involved in moving it."
Others believe it will make no difference where the operation is placed if the county does not provide additional funding to solve the problem of animals running loose in the growing county.
Sheriff Sid Smith and Public Works Director Dan O'Brien both said they would support whatever decision the commissioners make.
"It is the decision of the board and I will support whatever you decide. I don't disagree the shelter might be better off under a different department," Smith said.
The sheriff suggested dividing the responsibilities of running the shelter, which could go to Public Works, and enforcement, which he could keep under his jurisdiction.
"The individuals working in animal control have done a phenomenal job with what they have had to work with. I don't want to see these efforts go backward."
One difficulty in either department is finding enough money and people to do the job.
"It is a very emotional subject, " Smith said, "but quite honestly it is not at the top of my priority list. There are simply too many other crimes against people I must be concerned with."
With only four animal control officer positions to cover the 2,000-square-mile county on an everyday basis, Smith has strongly supported the establishment of private rescue shelters and encouraged more public participation in resolving animal control disputes.
"They (the officers) have very little time left over to patrol all areas on a regular basis," Smith said. "I suggest people talk with their neighbors about their concerns with barking dogs before filing complaints."
Lee Blomquist, director of the nonprofit Silver Springs Spay Neuter Clinic with her husband, Tom, supports moving animal control to another department or creating an independent agency.
"The most important element is it must be run by an animal control specialist and be properly funded," she said Friday. "If they don't look to the future and increase the budget, it won't matter where it is placed. We will still have the same situation."
Gardnerville resident and animal rescue activist Cherie Owen encouraged commissioners to move animal control away from the sheriff's department.
"With over 17,000 households in Lyon County, animal control is becoming a serious problem. It is an unfair position to put the sheriff's office in. I recommend you put it in its own department," she said.
During the past two years, residents' concerns regarding enforcement and conditions at the county's animal shelter in Silver Springs have been raised. Complaints include overcrowding of the animal holding facilities, euthanasia procedures, failure to make proper attempts to adopt stray dogs and lack of cat control ordinances.
As a direct result of these growing concerns, commissioners approved an Animal Control Advisory Board in September 1998. The five-member volunteer board is reviewing county animal control guidelines.