Pet owners must be part of the solution

The dog days of August are fraught with animal complaints. As Snohomish County’s population booms, so do the pets, and the accompanying problems.

In September, the County Council will consider $62,000 in emergency spending to hire two animal control officers to bring the county’s total to eight officers. In 2006, the county received 10,649 animal complaints, up from 7,838 complaints in 2005. In the name of safety alone, the county needs to add these officers.

In 2006, officers resolved about 4,700 cases, leaving nearly 6,000 complaints unanswered. The fact that complaints about barking dogs get almost no response indicate the seriousness of the other cases. By state law, officers must respond immediately to injured animals, loose livestock, a vicious animal that is threatening a person and dog bites and attacks.

With the county acknowledging the need to boost its animal control forces, the pet-owning public needs to sit up and be part of the solution. Like the many drivers who don’t believe the rules of the road don’t apply to them, many pet owners ignore the laws governing pet ownership. Here’s a refresher for pet owners in Snohomish County:

* The leash law is countywide (yes, even unincorporated areas). It is against the law to allow your dog to roam off your property. The county and some cities have dog parks where dogs can run off-leash. More are in the works. Use them.

* All animals need to be licensed. It is the best way to get your pet back if it wanders away. The license can be renewed online at the county’s Web site. There is a reduced fee for proof that the animal has been spayed or neutered and for being microchipped.

Those are the laws. Unfortunately, common sense and consideration can’t be legislated. Irresponsible people create problem animals when they refuse to have them spayed or neutered. Unaltered animals are far more likely to run off and be aggressive toward people and other animals. And when they breed with other unaltered animals they run across, they simply add to the unwanted pet population, the numbers of which are staggering and shameful.

Pets need exercise. They need time and attention. Their upkeep requires a great deal of money. Too many people have pets and don’t care for them. Animals are abused, neglected and dumped. Americans are supposedly so pet-loving. But 10,649 complaints a year says otherwise.

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