Sweeping changes could stretch animal control thin

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Sweeping changes at animal control could send more bad dogs to the pound.

Under the changes, animal officers would respond to all biting incidents in town, including your private property. It doesn't matter the circumstances. If a dog bites you, animal control is now required to go to the scene, regardless of where it is. It's put dog lovers, like Bernie Beldin on notice.

"I think they need to step back and look at what the requirements are," Beldin tells KEPR.

Up until now, if one of Beldin's dogs was to bite someone on his property, animal control would only come out if the wound was severe. But that's no longer the case under a new law that requires animal control to assess all dog bites. Beldin doesn't completely disagree, but wonders how an already-strapped agency can take on an additional workload.

"If they respond to the most recent case and you got 20 others, which do you investigate?" he asks.

Beldin's question is where much of the challenge lies. Many of the new cases are happening during existing cases involving stray dogs and cats. The increase in investigations means many other cases could go unanswered.

Tri-Cities Animal Control hired only one employee in the past five years.
There are no plans to add staff, even with the current changes.

Animal control says their best bet is to get more funding from the state -- and hope that people control their animals.

The changes in local laws are meant to follow a state law passed last year.