I’m about to tell you a true story about City and County agencies who have been professionally trained to pass the buck. Each person has memorized the “call __________ and they’ll take care of it” line from the Handbook of Non-Helpfulness. Luckily, I can read between the lines.
Once upon a time…
We were taking an evening stroll around the neighborhood -my wife, my son, and I- along with our basset hound. A few minutes into our walk I see the silhouette of man and a pit bull (on a leash) ahead of us. No big deal. Pits are great dogs with high intelligence. I’m fine with them. No, really. I’m fine with pit bulls.
The rest of the walk was almost uneventful. Toward the end, I raced my son back to our house (he won, by the way) and just as we reach the front door, I hear my wife scream my name. I pushed my son against the door, spun around, and saw a pit bull running toward our dog.
I bolted toward them and grabbed the pit…just as he was about to greet my dog with an action that rhymes with bump. The man I saw earlier strolled up like nothing was happening and asked, “is this your dog?”
“Not mine either. I thought he might have lived across the street here,” as he points to a neighbor’s house. And with that he walked off.
Gee, thanks for the help. And caring.
No collar. No leash. The scruff of his neck would have to do. I wish I was describing the man but I’m talking about the dog. To my surprise, he didn’t make a sound nor did he fight back. I was happy to find out that he was a really gentle dog despite his noticeable strength. He licked my face a couple times, sat on my foot, and wanted to be pet. Just a beautiful brown and white pooch (about a year old).
Now the challenge of deciding what to do. Although he seemed very loving, I wasn’t thinking about bringing him home. So my wife called Moreno Valley Animal Control to have the dog picked up. Surely they wouldn’t want a young, un-neutered pit bull wandering around a family neighborhood.
“Is it vicious”, the officer asked.
“No. My husband has him under control and he seems to be pretty nice.”
“We’ll only come out after hours if the dog is vicious,” she informs us.
“So what should we do?” My wife inquired.
“I’ll come by in the morning to pick him up. You can tie him in the front yard and maybe his owner will find him and take him home.”
This is where things start to go horribly wrong. I just couldn’t see the logic in leaving a pitbull tied in our front yard for anyone to come and steal. So we decided to tie him in the backyard, give him a blanket along with food and water, and wait for the Dog Catcher to get him in the morning.
Remember I mentioned that he wanted to be pet? Well, he really wanted to be pet. Turns out, this young pup was incredibly social and didn’t like being alone. He barked every time we walked away. After more than an hour of the barking and trying various ways to calm him, I knew we were going to have a problem so I called MVPD.
“We’ve just taken in a stray pit bull and Animal Control won’t come until tomorrow. But he won’t stop barking and you’re going to start getting noise complaints soon. What should we do?”
“Well, sir, we can’t come pick up the dog. Is it vicious?”
(Are you kidding? Could they really be reading from the same script?)
“No,” I said.
“If you let him go, his owner might find him.”
“I really don’t think its a good idea to let an unfixed male pit bull loose in a neighborhood full of kids. So what do you REALLY recommend I do?”
“There are two facilities that have stray animal drop off kennels. One is in Jurupa, the other in Wildomar.”
“That’s a better idea. Thanks. I’ll find them online.” I hung up the phone, found the address in Jurupa, loaded the puppy into the car, and headed into the darkness.
Got there in about 30 minutes.
It. Was. Full.
Called the place in Wildomar to confirm I had the right location.
“Where did you find the dog?”
“In front of my house.” I was being as vague as possible because I knew she was going to say something about only serving the Temecula valley.
“Sir, where do you live?” She asked.
“In the Inland Empire.” I creatively replied.
“Sir, we’re not supposed to accept animals from outside our area.”
“I understand. I referred to your facility by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department because I live in Riverside County so we’re in the same area.”
She wasn’t thrilled with me. “I understand, but I can’t tell you to bring the dog here if its from outside our area.
And THAT was my opening!
“No problem. I’ll think of another way to help the dog.”
She didn’t tell me to bring the dog. The cops never told me to take the dog. Each of them professionally passed the buck. To me.
Hopped back in the car and drove to Wildomar. When I arrived (at 11pm), they still had a couple empty cages so in he went. They had a blanket and water bowl waiting. He made a couple of wimpers, but otherwise did okay.
There is still more buck-passing. The Wildomar facility called me the following Monday (I left my number in their log book) to get more details on the dog. I told them I found him in Moreno Valley and that I was referred to them by the Sheriff’s. She started the “outside our area” speech and I said if the City and County animal control departments were going to pass the responsibility to me, I would handle the situation and that is what I did. She seemed to understand and said they would arrange for Moreno Valley Animal Control to get the dog.
But Moreno Valley Animal Control called my wife (since she placed the original call when the incident occurred) and got mad at us for taking the dog to the shelter in Wildomar! They thought we should have kept the dog or left it tied in the front yard for someone to take home. And the buck-passing continues…
So let’s sum this up:
- Moreno Valley Animal Control thinks we should let the pit bull be stolen.
- Riverside County Sheriff’s Department thinks we should let the pit bull loose in a neighborhood.
- Wildomar Animal Control thinks Moreno Valley Animal Control or Riverside County Animal Control should handle the problem.
- I think this nice puppy needed to be off the streets so I helped him out.
If you’re child was attacked by a stray dog and you later found out that RivCo Sheriffs and Animal Control could have prevented it but didn’t want to get involved, how upset would you be? What do you think of these City and County policies? Think your kids are being protected in situations like these?
Share your thoughts in the comments below and then contact your City Council to make sure your kids are protected when stray animals are found.