Letting dogs run loose is against the law. The two canines that were shot by police at Hogle Zoo last weekend after they killed six deer and mauled a dozen others are admittedly an extreme example. But for frustrated homeowners, the problem of roaming dogs is one that doesn't seem to have an answer.
While most dogs don't kill, or even bite, they can cause endless aggravation. Often let loose at night, they can ruin flower beds and shrubbery, leave a mess on the lawn, rip open plastic garbage bags and scatter the contents, and rouse irate residents with their barking.Somehow, the owners of the animals not only ignore the law, but seem oblivious to the damage, exasperation, and ill-will they are causing their long-suffering neighbors.
Tackling the problem is difficult. A person might detain a dog and call animal control officers. But grabbing a strange dog is not wise under the best of circumstances and most people wouldn't try it. Attempting it at night is even less appealing.
If the owner of the dog is known, a phone call will send animal control officers to talk to the owner. But that's no help if the owner of a specific dog is unknown, or when damage is done by an animal during the night. If animal control officers see dogs running loose, they can pick them up and the owner will be ticketed.
However, given the lack of finances and lack of staff, that doesn't happen very often. Salt Lake County animal control, for example, only has four officers for the entire unincorporated county. They work day shifts, five days a week. An emergency call at night to collect an injured animal means reduction in staff the next day. As population of the county steadily grows, so does the number of dogs and other pets.
So what's the answer? There apparently isn't an easy one. Insensitive dog owners aren't likely to respond to public appeals and change their ways. If the owner of a troublesome dog is known and won't keep the animal under control, frustrated neighbors can file a lawsuit. Yet that is usually more expensive and time-consuming than it is worth. And the damage to neighborhood relationships can be permanent.
Poisoning or shooting someone else's dog also is illegal, except under very unusual circumstances.
The only reasonable response and not an easy one would be to give animal control departments more funds and hire more officers. Barring that, the problem of roaming dogs seems destined to continue.