Vale officials grapple with lingering stray dog problem

Sandi Cunha, Vale ordinance officer, wants to remind residents to keep an eye on their dogs and to get them licensed. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

VALE – An ordinance to crack down on dogs running at large is on the Vale city books but unattended four-legged animals continue to be a challenge across town, city officials say.

“There is a huge problem,” said Tom Vialpando, Vale mayor.

Vialpando wants to remind residents to keep a closer eye on their dogs and that the city ordinance stipulates that dogs out for a walk must be on at least a six-foot leash.

Stray dogs are roaming to Wadleigh Park, said Sandi Cunha, the city ordinance officer.

“Dogs go down there and do their business and it isn’t cleaned up. We have the leash law and bags down there to pick up dog waste and people are just not utilizing it. There are also dogs running at large,” said Cunha.

Cunha faces the stray dog problem every day.

“We have quite a few dogs running around. It’s tough,” said Cunha.

Cunha said she spies dogs running around town and tries to follow and capture them. The dogs, though, are cagey, she said. At one home in the south part of town, Cunha said dogs paid close attention to her movements and recognized her city vehicle.

“When I would drive by their house, the dogs would sit at the fence and watch me go by. The minute I was around the corner they were up and over the fence. So, I started to drive a different car so I could catch them. They were smart dogs,” said Cunha.

Many dogs are not licensed with the city, she said. The fee for a dog license is $5 per year for an animal that has been spayed or neutered and has a set of permanent canine teeth. Proof of rabies vaccination is also required for a license.

“We keep a spread sheet on the dogs after they are licensed so if someone calls and says we lost our border collie it would very obvious who it belonged to,” said Cunha.

Other complaints – which are increasing – about stray dogs center on their encounters with residents who are walking their pet, said Cunha. Those dogs, said Cunha, “cause a ruckus.”

“We have a lot of people who walk now and dogs chase after them. I get frequent calls and pictures of these dogs. If they are not calling, they are tagging me on Facebook or texting me,” said Cunha.

Cunha’s options once she tracks down a stray dog are limited because there is no place to lodge them if they aren’t licensed.

“Sometimes I take them home and try to take care of it. But if someone catches the dog, I tell them to let it go. A lot of times I know the dog and then, of course, if they are licensed, I put them in my pickup and take them home,” said Cunha.

Vialpando said the city used to contract with Ani-Care in Nyssa to take stray animals.

“But they told us they were not going to take them anymore,” said Vialpando.

Vialpando said there is a need for a dog pound to serve the entire county.

“A lot of city residents have expressed concern about it,” said Vialpando.

Cunha urges city residents with dogs to get them licensed and to bone-up on the city’s ordinance regarding dogs running at large.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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