CAMP VERDE - The statistics speak for themselves.
Over the 2011-12 fiscal year, Camp Verde Animal Control responded to 903 dog-at-large calls, 110 barking dog calls, 32 dog bites and impounded 361 animals.
The bright side of the numbers is that 70 animals found their way back to their owners, 68 were relocated to animal rescues and 15 were adopted.
And the dark side, 208 (63 dogs and 145 cats) were euthanized.
It is a problem that has gone on for years. Dogs, in particular, get picked up, only to find out their owners either can't afford to bail them out or simply don't care enough. And when it's not dogs, it's feral cats, filling up the pens.
When Nancy Gardner took over as the Camp Verde marshal, she decided that wholesale changes need to be made in the way Camp Verde addressed its animal control problem.
Six weeks ago she began to implement those changes. A new program is designed to reunite errant animals with their owners and reduce the number that are euthanized.
The citizen group that helped design it, composed of animal advocates and rescue groups, has labeled it "Helping Paws."
"We will be concentrating on two things initially -- education and licensing," says Gardner.
The Town has an ordinance requiring the licensing of all dogs. With the assistance of volunteers and animal control officers, the Town will be actively working on licensing all dogs.
Currently the cost is $10 a year for spayed and neutered animal, $20 for those that aren't. The idea behind getting all dogs licensed is so the animal control will know who the dogs belongs to, and get the dog back where it belongs.
Under the new program, dogs at large will not necessarily be picked up immediately.
"We have found that in most instances dogs will go back home," says Gardner. "We have also found that when we pick them up, often the owners don't bother coming down to get them, either because the fees are too much or they simply don't care."
Dogs that are picked up will be held for a minimum of five days, per the town code. If they aren't claimed, Gardner says the department will begin working with local rescues, or taking them to the Humane Society in Cottonwood.
"We have been doing it for six weeks. We haven't euthanized a single animal, and four dogs have gone to Cottonwood where their adoption chances are nearly 90 percent," says Gardner.
As for cats, she says, the Town is out of the cat business, feral or otherwise.
"We have some cages that people can use to trap them. And we will refer them to groups who offer to spay and neuter strays. But any expense is the responsibility of the person trapping the animal," she says.
If you do see a loose or stray dog, you are asked to contain the animal and contact the Marshal's Office at (928) 567-6621 or the Camp Verde Animal Control information line at 567-6631. ext. 119."We have been doing it for six weeks. We haven't euthanized a single animal, and four dogs have gone to Cottonwood where their adoption chances are nearly 90 percent."
--Marshal Nancy Gardner