Animal control still weak in most of Franklin Co.

Over the past couple of years, some Mid-Columbia jurisdictions have slowly worked toward a solution for their animal control issues.

Benton County is set to open its new dog pound next week, once commissioners approve a new animal control ordinance.

The shelter opening and the animal control program have been a long time coming and not without controversy. Some are still scratching their heads over the cost of the $815,000 building for 32 dogs. But at least it's something.

Over in Franklin County, there still isn't an adequate animal control program.

Ironically, it was in Franklin County that the plight of one injured stray dog reignited the debate over the need for better animal control.

A friendly Chesapeake Bay retriever with two broken legs spent months living on his own in the fields of Franklin County before he was rescued by a citizen.

With no place for strays found in the county, the dog was saved by pet lovers around the globe who helped pay for his care and veterinary bills.

Chocolate's celebrity status didn't result in meaningful reform in Franklin County, however. There is still no system for rescuing strays and inadequate means for dealing with dangerous animals.

Two women -- both dog-bite victims -- recently spoke to Franklin County commissioners about the problem. Their cause is specific -- to create a plan for animal control in the so-called doughnut holes of unincorporated Franklin County that are surrounded by the city of Pasco.

Pasco has an animal control program. But if a dangerous dog resides in a county doughnut hole, the rules don't apply.

That needs to change, the women say. Dog owners ought to be accountable for their animals inside the doughnut holes and out.

We've long advocated for animal control, and it's a two-pronged issue: public safety and animal welfare.

But it would take only one plan to deal with both matters. Franklin County currently allocates a mere $2,000 for animal control.

It has an arrangement for housing dogs at Animal Hospital of Pasco, something commissioners call an interim step. But that interim program has several flaws, and a safe way to transport dangerous dogs is at the top of the list.

Sheriff patrol cars are designed to haul people, not pets. And especially not aggressive animals. It's not safe for the deputy or the animal.

Without a comprehensive animal control plan, people and animals are both put at risk. Franklin County doesn't even have a leash law.

A partnership with Pasco could be one solution to the animal control issue, but costs and logistics of such a plan still need to be explored.

And while commissioners look at options, they need to consider the county as a whole, not just the doughnut holes surrounded by Pasco.

Residents countywide -- both human and canine -- deserve a solution to this long-standing problem.

We can envision the news conference where the policy is announced with Chocolate the dog as an honored attendee.