Although it isn't exactly raining cats and dogs, officials in four southern Utah County cities are making sure they've got the pet-population problem on a leash - even if their police forces resemble door-to-door salesmen.
Those four cities - Salem, Santaquin, Spanish Fork and especially Payson - have experienced pet problems in the past few years.In 1991, Payson officials had considered contracting with the county for animal control services and doing away with its current animal control officer, especially after Mayor Richard Harmer received more than 50 complaints about stray animals. However, the Payson City Council has restored that position and has gone the way of several cities - who give the officer part-time animal control duties and part-time patrol duties.
Per the councils' requests, the officers have been required to patrol neighborhoods in search of unlicensed animals and go door-to-door for licensing signups. According to Spanish Fork Police Chief Dee Rosenbaum, the renewed efforts have paid off, at least in Spanish Fork.
In a recent Spanish Fork City Council meeting, Rosenbaum told the council the local animal control officer has licensed more than 800 animals - mostly dogs and cats - in the past year alone and has canvassed nearly half the city. Spanish Fork began its revised licensing program in 1991, after council members canceled part of its contract with Utah County.
Previously, the county licensed all animals and provided the countywide animal shelter. Today, the four cities only use the county for shelter resources.
According to Rosenbaum, the cities took over licensing because it allows city officials to have tighter control over licensing procedures and because they can monitor pet and animal populations more closely. While three of the cities (Payson, Salem and Santaquin) are somewhat strapped financially, officials there consider having their own animal control officers to be a better use of funds rather than contracting with the county or another entity for those services.
"At least this way, we'll be able to have the officer doing all his work here, rather than having to share him with any other cities," Harmer said. Animals collected by local animal control officers are still taken to the Utah County Animal Shelter.
Other south-county cities - including Elk Ridge, Genola, Goshen and Mapleton - still use county animal control services.