Bad dogs, bad dogs, whatcha gonna do when they come for you ... especially now that Yuma residents now have to call the police instead of the Humane Society of Yuma to handle animal-related calls.
Beginning on Jan. 1, the Yuma Police Department's Animal Control Services assumed responsibilities for animal control within the city limits. The Humane Society of Yuma will continue to focus on adoption and animal care, and animal control services for county residents.
“It has gone pretty good so far. We have had a good response from the public,” said animal control officer Penny Nitelet. “Our goal is to do the best we can for our residents.”
Currently staffed with a supervisor and two full-time animal control officers, the Animal Control Unit enforces various ordinances pertaining to animals and responds to calls of animals disturbing public, as well as loose animals, animal cruelty cases, injured animals, and a host of other situations involving domesticated animals. Once fully staffed, their hours will be from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m.
Sgt. Clint Norred, spokesman for the Yuma Police Department, said although the unit is a bureau of the police department, all of the animal control officers are civilian employees, and each has received specialized training by the National Animal Control Association (NACA) in animal safety, handling, apprehension techniques and capture equipment.
“We are a start-up unit and will learn as we go,” said ACS Supervisor John Allen. “It's a work in progress. We will see what works and what doesn't and go from there.”
Since the animal control unit is a part of the police department, Allen explained that if an animal control officer isn't available to respond to a call, a uniformed officer from the police department will be able to handle it until one is available.
The Animal Control Services Office is currently located inside the Yuma Police Department's lobby at 1500 S. 1st Ave. and may be reached by calling (928) 373-4795 or (928) 783-4421 or via email at ACS@yumaaz.gov.
Allen said the animal control officers will have different uniforms than Yuma police officers, but will drive pickups with the same markings as other YPD vehicles. He said since animal control officers are not permitted to carry a weapon, they will instead have an expandable bite stick and eventually pepper spray and a stun gun.
According to Allen, the overall goal of the animal control service unit is to return the animal to its owner, through what he called “voluntary compliance.”
The best way, and possibly the only way to do that, he said, is through licensing. Nitelet added in doing so, the owner also avoids whatever possible fees the humane society would impose to get their pet back.
“We know dogs get out. It is what they do,” Nitelet said. “We really don't want to take a dog to the shelter. It is a last resort. We would rather return them to their owner.”
Allen also encourages people to be responsible pet owners, saying the Humane Society of Yuma does a great job at providing low-cost spay and neutering service to county and city residents.
“If you are going to be an animal owner, be a responsible animal owner,” Allen said. “We need animal owners to take advantage of that service to help keep the unwanted animal population under control.”
Additionally, the City of Yuma Animal Control Services is also offering a Feral Cat Trap and Voucher Program.
The program, Allen said, allows Yuma residents to check out a cat trap at the ACS Office (free of charge) to capture any feral cats they may have around their home or businesses.
He said once a cat is captured, residents can bring them by the animal control officer for inspection, where they will be inspected to make sure they aren't part of a trap, neuter and release program, and given a voucher to present to the Humane Society, where they will eventually be required to take the cat.
The voucher, Allen said, will cover the cost the Humane Society would normally charge to take the cat in.
According to Norred, the Animal Control Services unit was started using the $457,000 that was originally budgeted in this year's fiscal budget for services that the city would have paid to the HSOY for animal control services.
Some of that money, Norred added, is also being used to offset the initial costs of vouchers issued in the feral cat trap program. Eventually, revenues collected from licensing will cover the cost.