Sheriff’s Department Closes Loophole

Stray_dogsI was taking my dog for a walk on a recent afternoon when two unfamiliar pooches joined us from parts unknown. Unfortunately, Brown and White, as I would come to call them, had no tags. In my experience, most strays will find their way home. But these two were more interested in following me to mine.

So, I dropped off my own pup at home and grabbed two leashes. We walked the neighborhood. But Brown and White didn’t lead me to any open gates, and no neighbors recognized the pair. We headed back to my house, but my pooch made it clear she would not be allowing any strays into her house.<

I called Animal Control and got a Corvallis Police Department (CPD) operator, and was informed that the Animal Control officer was off duty until morning. I explained that I could not keep the strays at my house. The operator advised me to “let them go, and hope that they find their way home.”

Flustered, I called the non-emergency number for the Benton County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO). This operator gave me the same answer. She explained that the BCSO Animal Control officer, even if she were on duty, would not pick up a stray within city limits.

As luck would have it, I had previously interviewed Animal Control officers Michele Tracy (CPD) and Erica O’Neil (BCSO) for a different article. According to both officers, CPD and BCSO have access to Animal Control vehicles and equipment when they are off duty. Both departments also have 24/7 access to Heartland Humane Society, where stray and dangerous animals are kenneled. In cases when an animal is dangerous but Animal Control is off duty, a police officer or sheriff’s deputy will respond.

But on this day, I was being advised to put these two stray dogs into a potentially dangerous situation, releasing them to fend for themselves.

I have since reached out to both CPD and BCSO to clarify their policies. Corvallis Police Lt. Cord Wood confirmed the policy of his department, which he referred to as a “community policing” approach. During Animal Control off-hours, they advise callers to deliver the animals to Heartland or keep them until Animal Control comes back on duty. There is no third option. Wood confirmed that CPD will not send an officer unless the dog is dangerous.

He pointed out that CPD would love to have a full-time Animal Control officer, but only has the budget for their current part-time position. “We do the best we can with the resources we have,” Wood said.

BCSO Sgt. Randy Hiner stated that deputies do pick up strays, even when Animal Control is off duty, but he would discover later that this was not reflected in BCSO policy. The operator referred to current policy correctly when she stated that no deputy would come to aid Brown and White.

Sgt. Hiner has since changed the Animal Control program policy to reflect the more helpful practice.

803.4.9.2 Residents finding stray animals may turn the animal over to its lawful owner, transport the animal to the Heartland Humane Society, or hold the animal until the Animal Control Program Manager or a Patrol Deputy is available to come pick it up. 

So the next time you find yourself rescuing a stray dog on a holiday or a weekend, I recommend calling the Sheriff’s Office. If you call the CPD, you might not get an answer you can live with.

As to Brown and White, a generous neighbor took them in for the night and they were reunited with their family the next morning.

By Dave DeLuca

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