Franklin Co. dog bite victims ask for help

PASCO — Two victims of dog bites want Franklin County commissioners to do more to address what they believe is a serious safety issue.

Dana Crutchfield of Pasco and Lara Neiffer of Franklin County asked commissioners Wednesday to partner with the city of Pasco to handle animal control in unincorporated county areas surrounded by city property.

Crutchfield told commissioners that she would like to see dog owners in the "doughnut holes" held accountable to rules and regulations similar to those Pasco sets for city residents.

In the city, the owner of a dog that is designated dangerous must have insurance, have an enclosure for the dog and meet basic safety standards, said Crutchfield, the wife of Pasco's city manager.

Crutchfield, a registered nurse, said that she was bitten by a dog running loose in Chiawana Park in August.

Its owner moved the dog to one of the doughnut holes and circumvented the city's rules, she said.

Neiffer and her husband, Jake, who live in one of the so-called doughnut-hole areas, were attacked by a loose dog while walking their own dog near Road 48 and Wernett Road in September.

Commissioner Brad Peck said the county's contract for housing dogs at Animal Hospital of Pasco is an interim step while the county works through the issue.

The veterinarian's office charges the county a daily fee for holding an animal, depending on its size and services needed. The county bills the owner for those costs.

Neiffer told commissioners there still are dogs in her neighborhood that are not in enclosures or on a leash.

"I don't feel safe in my neighborhood," she said.

Undersheriff Kevin Carle said the dog involved in the attack on Neiffer was euthanized.

The sheriff's office receives few calls for dangerous dogs, Carle said. Last year, there were no more than five incidents reported to the sheriff's office.

The sheriff's office has used the impound at Animal Hospital, most recently as Tuesday, Carle said.

The problem is the sheriff's office lacks a good way to take aggressive dogs to the impound, he said.

Deputy's cars aren't built for that.

Carle said the office has considered a partnership with the city, but commissioners would have to approve it.

In the doughnut holes, if a dog is declared dangerous, the owner does have to get insurance for the dog, have a kennel, keep the dog muzzled when it's not in its kennel and pay an annual $250 fee.

But the county does not have a leash law, Carle said.

That's something Crutchfield and Neiffer have advocated.

Commissioner Rick Miller agreed that dog owners should be held responsible.

The question is what a city-county partnership would cost, he said.

Crutchfield said it likely would cost less than $20,000 a year, a small fraction of the county budget.

The county currently allocates $2,000 for animal control.

"I think that would be a very wise expenditure," she said.

Administrator Fred Bowen said the county still has work to do and hasn't had a chance to bring a proposal to commissioners.

Also Wednesday:

A sales tax proposal to fund a new jail isn't off the table for the 2011 ballot.

Miller asked commissioners whether they would be willing to support a proposal similar to the 0.3 percent criminal justice sales tax measure that failed in 2009. It narrowly missed approval, with 47 percent voting for it.

Miller said that although he doesn't want to increase taxes, a solution to the jail is a serious need.

It would cost the county about $4.5 million to repair the jail, Bowen said, including replacing the roof.

Both Peck and Commission Chairman Bob Koch said they wouldn't support a measure now, but didn't rule out supporting one later this year.

"It's not off the table by any means, but we need to see some economy change," Koch said.

-- Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.co