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Officials say they hope the town's small police force can help solve some hairy problems involving domestic animals and pets.

Unlike neighboring Payson and Salem, both of which have animal-control officers, Santaquin relies on its three police officers to patrol pets while patrolling streets.Currently, the officers are required to spend 11 hours per month patrolling neighborhoods, looking for strays and solving possible disputes and other problems involving animals. To further those efforts, the city recently purchased a truck for $5,600 in which the officers can take the animals to the Utah County Animal Shelter.

However, City Councilman Hortt Carter said the current system hasn't been working, and perhaps the City Council needs to make clear to the officers how serious they are about animal control enforcement.

"I think we might need to sit down with them and have a little discussion about the problem," Carter said. "The administration needs to make them go do their job in that regard."

The discussion began after City Councilman David Hathaway asked other council members how far the city should go in enforcing its current ordinance, which establishes that residents with three or more dogs must own a kennel, unless they have the animals for business purposes such as breeding.

"How far do we want the police officers to go to bring some of these people into compliance with the ordinance?" Hathaway asked. "The business side requires the resident to have a business license. With the residential kennel rules, a lot of people don't even come close."

The current ordinance was written in 1987, and contains vague language, including descriptions of animals that are included in its jurisdiction, according to Hathaway. He suggested that the council could write "an enforceable ordinance," or that it could step up its enforcement, either hiring a part-time animal control officer, as Salem has, or having the police force perform an "animal census."

"This thing with owners' abusing the ordinance and having eight or nine dogs in their house has got to go," Hathaway said.

An animal census would send officers door-to-door to ask residents how many pets they have and also request residents to license the animals. The census could determine how many unlicensed animals roam the city.