BARSTOW The Barstow Humane Society is now offering emergency animal control calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week which Barstow Police Department officers hope will ease the burden of responding to after-hours animal calls and humane society officials hope will help animals.

An additional $60,000 in funding for the Barstow Humane Society was recently approved by the Barstow City Council and the addition of another animal control officer has allowed for constant on-call animal control officers for emergencies outside of operating hours such as injured animals, vicious dogs, or helping the police when they serve a search warrant, said Jeanette Hayhurst, executive director for the Humane Society.

For Barstow Police Sgt. Andy Espinoza Sr., the ability to have many of the animal calls handled by animal control officers will be a benefit to the police department and will free officers up to respond to other calls. Espinoza said the police department will still respond to emergency animal calls when they are needed.

"We handle at least two dog calls a day," said Espinoza, who added that most calls were from people afraid of large dogs running loose, such as pit bulls or Rottweilers.

While the police department doesn't normally spend a lot of time searching for the dogs, they will take more time and effort if they think the dog is aggressive and may bite someone, said Espinoza. Sometimes it can take a while to locate the animal, which happened recently when a pit bull and a chow attacked and killed a man's dog, said Espinoza. The police were unable to find the two dogs until the next day.

Hayhurst said animals will also benefit by having constant on-call animal control service because animal control officers have the training, knowledge, and equipment to deal with animals.

"This is what our guys and gals are meant to do," said Hayhurst.

For Hayhurst, the additional officer was a necessary expense. She pointed out that officers were called out five different times this week alone. An officer also wound up responding to four separate incidents on Monday that counted as only one call-out.

"Those are calls we wouldn't have gotten and animals we wouldn't have helped," said Hayhurst.

The addition of another full-time animal control officer also means that the humane society will be able to be more proactive than reactive, including stepping up enforcement of license laws, said Hayhurst.

As part of its efforts to inform the public and get them to license their pets, the humane society will not be charging any late fees or penalties to license dogs until May 31. Licenses cost $15 a year for a neutered or spayed dog and $60 a year for dogs which have not been altered. Starting in June, animal control officers will be checking to make sure residents have their dogs licensed, said Hayhurst.

People with animal problems should continue to call Barstow Police Dispatch at (760) 256-2211 for after-hours emergencies.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or kjonas@desertdispatch.com