Woodlake continues to rein in stray dogs

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City animal control has caught nearly 1,000 dogs over four years totaling a shelter cost of almost $35,000
By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
WOODLAKE – Dogs on the loose in Woodlake had been a historic problem around town for many residents on an evening stroll. In 2014 one resident told the City Council about how a rabid dog attacked her elderly parent’s cat in their own front yard. Another woman mentioned seeing several dogs traveling around town in a pack. 
But since the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the City has managed to make some inroads on their dog problem. After hiring Immanuel Llamas as a part-time dog catcher through a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) the City caught 294 dogs. Throughout the next fiscal year, 2015-2016, the City caught 249 dogs. The following year they caught 180 dogs and through 10 months of this fiscal year they caught 147.
According to community development director Jason Waters the City is currently in dog catching season, and will likely surpass last year’s 180 dogs. But overall the trend of dogs to catch is down.
“Yeah there are definitely fewer dogs to catch around town,” Waters said.
Fortunately for Woodlake, the fewer dogs they catch the better off their animal control budget is. When CDBG dollarsran out the City moved Llamas into a full-time position by combining the duties of animal control, code enforcement and public works into one position. Not to mention the cost of sheltering a captured dog. For every dog that is caught there is a sheltering fee through the City of Porterville animal shelter. 
When the City caught 294 dogs, Woodlake spent $11,470 in shelter fees, not including staff time. The next year they spent $9,940, the following year $7,190 and after 10 months into this fiscal year, $5,866. The total combined cost of animal shelter services over the last four years has reached almost $35,000. 
According to a Woodlake City Staff report, they cover the costs of animal control through the general fund. Fortunately the cost has not been too great. When the public approached the Council about the problem at the beginning of 2014 the City was in dire straits financially without the funds available to shelter dogs, much less pay for a dog catcher. 
Now the City has passed their one percent sales tax measure and is operating on a $2.7 million general fund budget, and is poised to start building a healthy reserve over the coming years.