Unleashed dogs an ongoing problem at Tahoe
On the surface Tahoe is a dog lover’s paradise – endless miles of trails, meadows and inviting forests. The natural beauty overwhelms some pet owners and they begin to view the whole community as one big back yard.
“They come to the mountains to let their dogs run free. They fail to see they are part of a community,” said El Dorado County Animal Control officer Ruthie Cecchetini. “There is a leash law. Anytime a dog is not on their own property, it must be on a leash.”
Unfortunately, dogs and other unsuspecting residents end up paying the price for the actions of irresponsible pet owners, officials said. Since July 1, 1998, Cecchetini said 36 dogs have been quarantined at the animal shelter for biting humans. That number doesn’t include the dog bite incidents where the dog was quarantined with the owner, she added. The call of the wild also resulted in 106 dead animals found alongside the county’s roads since July. That number includes cats and some wild animals, but Cecchetini said the overwhelming majority are dogs.
“It’s an ongoing problem. A lot of people are just not going to comply. They feel it’s their right to let their dogs roam free. Some say the snow is too high and they can’t keep their dogs in the back yard,” Cecchetini said. “Obviously the snow is high. We live in South Lake Tahoe. I have dogs and I dig out a moat, or if you know the dog can jump out, you put it on a runner. That is no excuse for letting your dog out.”
There are penalties for disregarding the law. All dogs four months or older must by vaccinated and licensed. The first-time impound fee is $25, the second offense within a year is $50, and the third, and all others within the same year is $100. If the dog is not licensed there is a $30 fine, and owners are forced to prepay for a license, which is $10 for an altered dog, and $20 for an unaltered. Owners must also pay $6.50 a day for every day the dog is kenneled.
Cecchetini said the shelter receives numerous calls about loose dogs and the problem is widespread on South Shore.
“We investigate every call that we get,” she said. “People get frustrated because the officer has to see the dog commit the violation, but if people keep calling, sooner or later we’re going to catch that dog out doing what they’re complaining about. The most important thing is getting an address where the dog lives. We do ask for the caller’s name and address, but it is kept strictly confidential. We do not give it out.”
The shelter is open Monday through Saturday, and an officer is on patrol on Sunday. Cecchetini said people shouldn’t be discouraged if they can’t report a violation immediately.
“We can’t do anything if we don’t know about the problem,” she said.
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