YERINGTON - In hopes of getting better control on the problem, Lyon County officials have created a new county department to manage stray and abandoned animals.
Commissioners voted 3-2 to make animal control an entity as of July 1, 2000, and to advertise for a department head to fill a currently vacant animal control position.
The difference in salary between the two positions will be paid for out of the county's 2000/01 budget's contingency fund. No additions were made to the division's current budget.
Strongly supporting the move, Commissioner Chet Hillyard did not want the long debated issue of where to place authority over the division to be postponed any longer.
"We are about to sweep this under the rug again. It should be its own entity. Continuing to procrastinate will be costly. We need to take positive action now," he said.
Animal rescue activist Cherie Owen, a Gardnerville resident specializing in the rescuing of German shepherds, agreed with Hillyard.
"You do need it as its own entity. With the current vacancy in animal control, you have the unique opportunity to go ahead and do the right thing now, instead of being dragged along kicking and screaming," she told the board.
Commissioners Bob Milz and Phyllis Hunewill joined Hillyard in supporting the move.
Others were not as agreeable. Commissioners David Fulstone and LeRoy Goodman questioned removing enforcement duties from the authority of the Sheriff's Department and wanted more time to analyze the issue.
"I am a little concerned with starting a new department. We could create a bureaucracy with added costs. I would like to see it analyzed more," Fulstone said.
"I am not ready to support it as a new department. I have always believed it belongs in the Sheriff's Department. This is very premature to do this today. If we are going to fix it, let's do it right rather than approving it today and then figuring out how to do it."
Goodman suggested placing it within the Public Works Department for a few years before possibly creating a new department.
County Manager Stephen Snyder was also hesitant to create a new department and asked for more time.
"I would not create a separate/additional bureaucracy. I think I could fit it within the existing system," he said.
According to Assistant District Attorney Steve Rye, the decision to move the department from its current position within the Sheriff's Department will require ordinance changes, including whether to give Animal Control officers the authority to issue citations.
Commenting after the meeting, Snyder said he will meet with the sheriff and district attorney to work out strategy for structuring the new department and "It will stay where it is until we are ready."