Livingston cracks down on roaming stray dogs

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comAugust 19, 2013 

— Stray dogs are an issue in many parts of Merced County, and Livingston police made a push this week to crack down on loose animals.

"I realize this is a regional issue and a quality-of-life issue for our residents," Police Chief Ruben Chavez said, in a news release, "and we will do our part in ensuring those dog owners are held responsible for allowing their unlicensed and unvaccinated dogs to roam freely."

Since last Monday, Livingston police and its animal control officer caught more than 35 dogs.

Twenty-five of the owners were given citations, and their pets were returned, according to the release. The remaining 10 were taken to the Merced County Animal Shelter.

Dogs taken to the shelter cost the city of Livingston $92 each. If an owner reclaims the animal, the owner is responsible for the cost.

Livingston City Council in April approved an administrative citation for stray dogs. It allows police to write a ticket to owners for dogs running loose within the city limit, not being licensed or not being vaccinated.

The tickets are intended to be "fix-it" tickets and do not carry a fine, according to the release, except when dogs are running loose. The first violation is a $50 fine and subsequent violations go up to $100 and $200.

Police also are allowed to fine anyone deemed a repeat offender of any of the administrative violations.

Livingston police often receive complaints about animals running loose, Chavez said. Some owners open their gates and let animals out, especially in the mornings and afternoons, he said.

"They pose a danger to children and other animals, and the owners will be held responsible for contributing to unsafe practices in our community," Chavez said.

Before last week, the release stated, fliers went out to Livingston residents about the impending enforcement of citations.

New Beginnings for Merced County Animals offers free or low-cost spay or neuter procedures based on an owner's ability to pay. Call Sharon Lohman at (209) 769-2122.

Reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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