Lyon County home to thousands of roaming dogs

Janelle Davis of Mark Twain holds a chocolate lab that she cared for after she found it with a severely cut paw Sunday. She brought the dog to the vet and is searching for its owner.

Janelle Davis of Mark Twain holds a chocolate lab that she cared for after she found it with a severely cut paw Sunday. She brought the dog to the vet and is searching for its owner.

Stray dogs that run amok through the wide-open spaces, rolling hills and fields of sagebrush in Lyon County are getting themselves in a heap of trouble.

Lyon County Animal Control is not able to care for the more than 2,700 freedom-loving dogs who run loose daily, the current number estimated by county officials.

And with no money to pay for a veterinarian on staff, the county shelter is unable to provide medical care for the dogs who regularly injure themselves, animal control officials reported.

The small kennel euthanized 148 sick and injured animals in 2002, according to a report released last week by the county.

Residents often take matters into their own hands when they find sick and injured canines, paying hundreds for care instead of sending them to the shelter where the dogs will likely be euthanized.

Last week, Stagecoach residents Gardner and Janelle Davis took in an chocolate Labrador Retriever that showed up in the neighborhood with a severely injured and bleeding front leg.

Using basic veterinarian aid at home, the Davises stopped the bleeding and called the sheriff's department for help. The 911 dispatcher told the family they were not able to call the county animal shelter at night and dispatched a deputy.

When a deputy arrived, they were told the animal shelter would likely hold the dog for a few hours and then it would be euthanized.

The family decided to take the dog to a private veterinarian the next day. They spent nearly $250 to have the leg repaired. The dog will need care two times a day for six weeks, Gardner Davis said.

"We are going to take care of the dog because the kind of help the shelter will provide will be no help at all," he said. "To me, there's no reason if he's injured to a point where he can be saved, he's no different than a human being."

Lyon County Animal Shelter supervisor Dan Rodgers said the shelter does not have the money to pay for a full-time veterinarian and care for the thousands of stray and injured dogs that are reported each year. The county instead works with an animal welfare society who can take the dog to a veterinarian.

By law, the shelter must keep the dog for eight hours.

"If they are injured that badly, we will put them down," Rodgers said. "We're not going to let a dog needlessly suffer."

Rodgers reported to Lyon County commissioners last week about the current situation with stray dogs in the county. He estimates the number of dogs running loose every day is 2,700 to 3,000. There are between 27,000 and 30,000 dogs in the county, he said.

"Our stray situation out here is really bad," Rodgers said.

The shelter has 26 kennels and most are full. The shelter impounded 851 dogs in the last year. Of those, 21 percent were redeemed, 34 percent are adopted, 13 percent are rescued and 32 percent are euthanized.

The county received 42 dog bite reports in 2002. Of those, stray dogs caused 44 percent of the bites, Rogers said.

Of the 278 dogs who were euthenized in 2002, 148 of them were sick or injured.

Animal Control received $228,788 from the county for fiscal year 2003-2004 to pay for administration, services and supplies.

Rogers asked county commissioners to consider the future needs for the shelter as Lyon County population increases.

"As it stands now, we cannot service the needs of the people due to the shelter capacity, we have to take a hard look at either expanding out current shelter or moving ahead with the new shelter," Rogers told the board Jan. 23.

Tom Blomquist of the Silver Springs Spay-Neuter Project said his nonprofit organization, which neuters stray animals, receives many calls from residents looking for help for injured dogs. The project neutered 91 animals last year, he said.

Blomquist said he is trying to work with officials to "bring the county up to par."

Not having a full-time county veterinarian does not surprise Blomquist.

"I think it's understandable," he said. "It's a county facility and it would cost money."

Blomquist said he would like to see an investigation of the county operating procedures and has received numerous calls from people about the problems.

The group has also taken in sick and injured dogs, paid for medicine and operations to heal them instead of sending them to the county shelter, though the cost of caring for the dogs has caused Blomquist personal hardships at times, he said.


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