Churchill County Sheriff’s deputies now have authority to handle dog complaints.
Churchill County Commissioners approved at a meeting in February two dog ordinances that address dogs at-large and barking canines.
Sheriff Ben Trotter said the dogs at-large ordinance will make it unlawful to allow dogs to run wild on property other than that of the owner unless the dog is a working dog or is under the immediate direction and control of the person responsible for the dog. He said the ordinance also provides measures that allow county officers to capture at large dogs. Captured dogs will be taken to the Fallon City Animal Shelter and will be housed and released according to city policies.
Tony Burgess, animal control supervisor, said the county has had a long-standing contract with the shelter to house the strays that are brought in. He said the strays from the county follow the same rules as the city.
“Every animal that comes in can be claimed by its owner at anytime, but if no one claims the animal after five days, they will be put up for adoption,” he said. “Although we work with the county we do not send animal control personnel to pick up animals. The animals must be brought in by a sheriffs officer or the concerned individual.”
Burgess said the shelter does have a reclaiming fee. The first offense is $25, second is $50 and third and subsequent is $100. He also stated that the shelter-reclaiming fee is separate from the county fine for the ordinance.
Trotter said if a concerned individual decides to bring a dog to the shelter to still call a sheriff deputy so the county can keep track of the animal.
The barking dogs ordinance makes it unlawful to permit a dog to bark or make other noises for a cumulative period of 30 minutes or more in any hour at a noise level exceeding 60 decibels. This is measured on any residential property, Trotter said.
“Sixty decibels is a level which would most likely disturb the peace of a reasonable person and is a level used by other jurisdictions as a noise threshold for noise nuisances,” he said.
It is up to the compliant to provide the sheriff’s deputies with evidence against the nuisance dog, Trotter added. Since it is a civil case and not a criminal matter residents need to keep a log with the evidence so the deputies can take action from there, he said.
Trotter advised if residents are having an issue with a barking dog to invest in a video camera to record the incident, he said that allows for hard evidence for the case.
Trotter said the sheriff’s office will have five decibel meters that can be loaned out to those who do not have access to one and that the ordinance applies to persons residing on 10 acres or less.
The penalty for violating either of the ordinances is a civil penalty with the first offense being $25, second $50 and third and after $100.
“The sheriff’s office intends to work with dog owners to educate them on this new law and to help them be compliant before charging anyone for violating the ordinances,” he said.
Trotter said currently the sheriff’s office calls consist of 9-10 percent animal related and out of that figure, 80-90 percent are complaints about dogs. He said he hopes with the new ordinance in place, dog-related calls will drop to 100 calls per year.
“We’re not out to get people with the new ordinances,” Trotter said. “We want to educate people, have dog owners take responsibility for their animals and dog owners be considerate of their neighbors.”
Trotter said another benefit he hopes the dog at-large ordinance will create is for residents to feel safe while being out in the county. He said people shouldn’t have to defend themselves or their animals while on their own property or county property from roaming dogs.
“We’ve had a lot of support with these ordinances, and I’m hoping it will have a positive impact on the problems we’ve been having with dogs in the county,” he said.