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Animal Control Officer blames too lenient laws for dog problems

Published May 20. 2011 05:20PM

According to Carbon County Animal Control Officer Bruce May, at least one of the two dogs rumored to have been roaming Mahoning Township on May 6th and reported by resident Brandon Everett, who lost livestock earlier in the year from an attack by two dogs allegedly owned by Joseph Frey, could not have been the pit bull that stalked the township last year.

"The pit bull in question was turned into the shelter on May 4th at 10 a.m.," May said in an interview with The TIMES NEWS this week. May pointed out as well that the same dogs may not always have been at fault adding that the lab which was the primary hunter may have befriended other roaming animals. "The descriptions of the dogs occasionally did not match the animals in question. It's entirely possible there are other dogs roaming free as well and on occasion met up with the lab or in a few cases the attackers were other dogs altogether."

"Furthermore, the lab and its puppies will be surrendered to me right after Memorial Day. The report that it would be Labor Day is wrong," he said.

The Labor Day date which was disputed by supervisor George Stawnyczyj as well stemmed from a report Chairperson John Wieczorek read during the last supervisor's meeting.

May reported that the county did everything it could to handle the situation, but the laws are not strict enough to truly punish those that abuse them. "The people paid their fines and went on their way repeatedly," he said. "The problem here is the law is too lenient for these people."

According to May, the state mandates a floating fine of $10 to $300 on a first offense which only slightly increases with subsequent offenses, but the magistrate determines what the actual fine is. "These fines are too low for chronic violators and they should have a much higher maximum." He felt the fines just are not punitive enough to steer people from breaking them.

"Cruelty laws are too lenient as well. It is ridiculous that you can abuse animals and get a slap on the wrist," he said. May said the state divided dog law enforcement in 1998 and his jurisdiction is now enforcing licensing, rabies shots and roaming animals while county cruelty agents handle cruelty cases.

When asked if he is allowed to take an animal from a chronic offender, May said, " I cannot seize a dog that is causing a problem because it is personal property. I need a court order to authorize me to do so."

One of the questions that arose at the meetings was whether the owners could be prevented from having dogs in the future. May said, "No. The only way that could happen is if the court files an injunction barring ownership. That only takes place in cases of chronic extreme cruelty and in the thirty plus years I have been doing this, only a handful of people ever were punished to that extent."

May also cleared up the question of kennel access. "All police officers should know that they have 24/7 access to the shelter. A key is kept at the prison [which is right next to the shelter] that they can use to drop off a dog. It is not true that there is no after-hours access to the facility. They drop off the animal, fill out a form and return the key to the prison."

At one time an inmate detail from the prison took care of the dogs at the shelter, but a change in policy stopped that.

"There is only myself and two other part time people to oversee this whole county," said May. "I cannot be everywhere at the same time and there is nothing I can do if I or the police do not catch an animal in the act of breaking the law. When we do, we cite them but the minor fines they pay do not prevent them from doing it again. Fines need to be harsher and people need to be punished when they chronically break the law so that they think twice about it.

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