By editorial board • 

Effective people control perhaps key to efficient animal control

Regulation of cats and dogs in the community first requires regulation of their owners. And history shows us that can be as difficult as wrangling a rebellious stray from the sidewalk.

The McMinnville Parks and Recreation Department is seeking ways to make peace at its Riverside Drive Dog Park, where owners are feuding over the differences among small and large, timid and aggressive. Making the effort maddeningly exhaustive is the fact it’s always the other dog that’s the problem.

At the county level, meanwhile, Sheriff Tim Svenson is proposing an overhaul of the dog control section of his department. And by overhaul, he effectively means shutdown.

He’s already said goodbye to the last of his dedicated dog control officers. He’s proposing to divide their former functions among municipal police officers, county sheriff’s deputies and volunteers associated with pet-oriented nonprofits.

It wasn’t long ago that county dog control officers picked up stray pets in county vehicles for transport to a county shelter at the county fairgrounds. Go further back in history, when the city had an animal control operation of its own. But both the city operation and county shelter are already history and it appears the county operation is about to join them.

Funding has always been an issue. It has become chronically and critically short of late, which is the key driver.

Dog licensing remains the main source of dog control revenue. Owners are simply thumbing their noses on a grand scale, and the cost of enforcing compliance outweighs the benefit. Amnesty periods on overdue licenses have served to ease the problem, but by no means eliminate it.

As a result, Svenson is proposing a new system. He’s recommending a model pioneered in Deschutes County, which utilizes nonprofit agencies to manage the pet population, without need for costly engagement of either a governmentally or privately operated kennel.

Like the many people attending the recent commission meeting, we think the idea has legs.

People inherently prefer donating to nonprofits over Uncle Sam, even if it’s only symbolically so. A collaborative, community approach should attract more buy-in while simultaneously cutting some bureaucratic costs.

The many aspects of animal control, dog park and other pet issues in the community all share one thing in common — a need for citizen support. Perhaps placing more responsibility on owners themselves will help solve the human control issues that historically have plagued animal control efforts.