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Advocate makes pitch for animal cruelty officer

Published March 12. 2010 05:00PM

A local animal rescue advocate says Carbon County needs an animal cruelty officer.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Donna Crum, coordinator for the Carbon County Animal Response Team, approached the board and asked that they look into creating a position to handle animal cruelty cases.

"I have now, since the two years that I volunteered, assisted in 107 cases," Crum said. "I have worked with seven different police departments within the county and the position that I have been looking for to be created is for the welfare of the animals."

She said that there have been a number of animal cruelty cases throughout the county that municipal police handled.

Crum added that she previously approached county officials about this matter on Oct. 14, 2009, but nothing has been done.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, responded to Crum's request, stating that a discussion on the subject will need to take place.

He said that he feels the county is not responsible for creating a position of a cruelty officer, and thinks it is the municipalities' responsibility.

"I'm not sure that the county should be creating a position and spending money on enforcement of the law when it's not our responsibility," he said.

Crum said that the state code says it is the county's responsibility.

She added that she has received calls from the Carbon County Communication Center or a police department, asking for help transporting an animal when the K-9 Shelter is closed.

O'Gurek said that it may be a problem that the Communication Center is contacting Crum after hours because it should be K-9's responsibility to transport.

"There are a lot of issues here that are complicated," he said. "Of which is who is responsible financially. You're asking the county to establish the position and pay for that position and benefits and I think there needs to be a discussion on if it's the county's responsibility or the municipality's."

Crum asked when the discussion will take place.

O'Gurek said they will ask solicitor Michael Ozalas to look over the code and determine who is responsible financially for an animal cruelty position.

"If it's us (the county) then we'll gladly have the discussion," he said.

Commissioner Charles Getz added that he feels the county should have that meeting none the less because K-9 is not responding to calls after hours.

"We need to have a discussion with our K-9 people to see why they do not go out on calls," he said, adding that he has received phone calls about K-9 officers not responding.

O'Gurek agreed that this matter needs to be straightened out.

Getz then asked Randall Smith, county administrator to set up a meeting to get everything squared away.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein brought up the question about finances.

"I think the bigger picture comes down to budgetary," he said. "How much are we willing to spend to do the job? Do we pay these people to come out at night all the time?"

Nothstein added that the county is losing over $40,000 annually to operate the K-9 shelter.

Crum suggested per diem or on call positions to help cut down on costs.

She urged the commissioners to further look into this issue because it is a matter of public and animal safety.

O'Gurek said that the board agrees with Crum about public safety, but financial responsibility is the main issue at this point.

He noted that Carbon County is the only county in the state in the K-9 business.

The board will now look into the state code regarding an animal cruelty officer and who is responsible for creating and maintaining a position.

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