Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Monday, Aug. 15 @ 1:58 p.m. / Community, Local Government
County Seizes Remaining Two Fort Dick Dogs, Saying Owner Failed To Keep Them Restrained
(Updated at 2:39 p.m. with more information from Animal Services Director Justin Riggs.)
Del Norte County Animal Control has seized two dogs that have had Fort Dick cat owners on edge since December, saying their owner hasn’t lived up to a promise to keep the animals restrained.
The county’s seizure of the two animals on Wednesday is prompting the Animal Services Department Director Justin Riggs to declare the matter resolved, according to a Friday press release. The dogs are at the Del Norte County Animal Shelter.
Krystol Berry, a Quail Lane resident who has footage of the dogs attacking her cats in mid-December, said it’s a more positive outcome than the initial advice she and her neighbors received, which was to shoot them.
“To me, this is a win,” she told the Outpost on Monday. “It’s a long time coming, but they finally did the right thing.”
In June, county officials reached an agreement with the dog owner, who agreed to surrender one of his three animals, pay a $3,000 fine and promise to have no “running-at-large” violations relating to the remaining two dogs for five years.
If the county received evidence that the dogs weren’t restrained, the owner could be liable for an original fine of $13,000, Riggs told the Outpost in June.
However, according to Berry, one of her neighbors sent her pictures of the remaining two dogs, saying they were in her yard. Berry said she, and District 2 Supervisor Valerie Starkey, advised the neighbor to call Animal Control and the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office.
According to Riggs, in mid-July the Animal Services Department served the dog owner with “pre-seizure paperwork” after it received evidence that the dogs were running at large. This afforded the owner the opportunity to request a hearing by July 18. When the owner failed to request that hearing, the department obtained a warrant and seized the animals, according to the press release.
When Berry and her neighbors submitted their initial complaints about the dogs to Animal Control in December, they were frustrated with the slow response. At that time, Riggs told the Outpost, that his department was below 50 percent staffing.
“We’re lucky to get an officer in the field,” Riggs told the Outpost. “Our animal control officer has to spend, in most cases, a majority of her time on animal care.”
On Friday, however, Riggs said the Animal Services Department has become more stable thanks to the addition of an animal control supervisor and “the professionalization of our Animal Control Officer series.” Measure R — the county’s 1 percent sales tax measure from 2020 — has paid for a lot of these changes, Riggs said.
According to Riggs, the department's animal control officers received raises, training and more possibility for advancement. Staff can start as a part-time kennel attendant and work their way up to an animal services supervisor, he said.
“Our new animal services supervisor was instrumental in bringing the case to a conclusion and will be critical in the success of animal services going forward,” Riggs said, adding that he appreciates the public’s patience. “All the dogs have been removed from the property and the matter has been settled.”
Starkey said the county, particularly the Animal Shelter volunteer group, Dogs of Del Norte County, will likely try to find new homes for the two dogs that were seized.
“We would not be able to function without those volunteers,” Starkey said, mentioning one by name, Laureen Yamakido. “She has worked so hard to get various no-kill shelters to be able to come and pick up a lo too our dogs and tries to pair people with the dogs.”
Starkey said the Del Norte County Animal Control will host an adoption event on from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Aug. 27 at the animal shelter on Washington Boulevard.