Canine sent to animal shelter while city debates program
October 25, 2004
Carson City’s lone drug dog is being housed at the city-owned animal shelter after the Sheriff’s Department suspended the canine program following the announcement of a $63,000 settlement to a former officer.
Sheriff Kenny Furlong said Monday the black Labrador retriever “Luke,” who is trained as a drug dog, was turned over to the animal shelter by Deputy Glen Fair on Friday.
Luke will remain at the shelter until officials decide what to do about the canine program.
“Following the decision by the Board of Supervisors, our staff convened and determined that further study was necessary of our program to determine operational impact and administrative costs,” Furlong said.
“Although the District Attorney’s Office has recommended or suggested that the current contract adequately protects the employee as well as the city, I think that the decision that was made warrants further review of our program.”
On Thursday, city supervisors unanimously voted to pay former Carson City canine officer Paula Leever $63,000 to settle her claim for overtime pay for off-duty care of her drug-sniffing dog “Scout.”
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Rather than pay overtime, the city had negotiated a flat $60 for two weeks of such care by any officers assigned a police dog. The agreement was worked out with the Carson City Sheriff’s Protective Association in 1995.
Leever said that as part of her duties as a canine officer, she had to groom, feed, bath, exercise, and train Scout during off-duty hours. On average that took 28 hours a week, in addition to her regular shift, according to court documents.
A three-judge 9th Circuit Court panel said the city “did not consider all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the agreement in reaching its conclusions that the agreement was reasonable.”
Furlong said the settlement prompted his department to review the program, which made it necessary to put Luke, who is considered city property, into the shelter.
“If he stays with (Deputy) Fair, then you still have the current situation,” Furlong said. “So we’ve decided we are going to have to kennel Luke until we get this thing figured out.”
The jet black Labrador now spends his days in a 3-by-4-foot kennel in the quarantine section of the shelter on Butti Way. Either the incessant tail wagging the effervescent Luke has done in the concrete cell has left the tip of his tail raw, or he’s gnawed on it out of nerves, said animal technician Larry Niebling.
With the recent retirement of one animal control officer and the transfer of another to a separate city department, Neibling said the shelter is short-handed, which leaves Luke stuck in his cage without much exercise.
Niebling said the dog is being kept away from the public because if he were out in the pens open to the public, everyone would want to adopt him.
“He’s just a nice dog,” he said.
Contact F.T. Norton at email@example.com or 881-1213.