A pit bull wandering loose next to G Street in Merced this week sparked a few calls to the Merced Police Department's dispatch line.
Because there's only one animal control officer working for the department, the pit bull was allowed to run free. Eventually, it made its way down Alexander Avenue, headed toward Burbank Elementary School.
Luckily, the dog caused no problems — but no officer was available to deal with the stray, so it was left to do what it wanted.
"We lost 13 positions from the department in the 2009- 2010 fiscal year," said Merced police Sgt. Jay Struble. He is in charge of animal control for the city.
"One of those positions was an animal control officer," he added.
Usually, the police department has three animal control officers, but with the loss of one, and another one on medical leave for months, only one officer remains to cover the city.
The sole animal control officer that works for the city handles all calls from the public, along with licensing dogs and follow-up paperwork.
"Normally, the officer works Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.," Struble said. "That's where the issues come in." Because of the heavy workload, the animal control officer typically works until noon in the field, leaving the afternoon to deal with paperwork.
The officer must also check all calls that came through dispatch during the off hours and take phone messages from the public.
"She will have anywhere from 20 to 40 calls for serv- ice," Struble said. "She has to prioritize those calls." That means some calls won't get answered. A loose dog that's not acting aggressively may not get picked up for a few days.