The Sun Valley area is known as a dog-friendly community, but sometimes those dogs aren’t so friendly themselves.
Dogs at large have been known to bite people, attack other dogs in their own yards or when they’re on a walk with their owners, and even kill people’s pets.
“I would say we have an issue with it,” Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter said Wednesday. “I wouldn’t characterize it as serious. It’s not an epidemic, but it is an issue.
“We’ve had dogs attack other dogs with people on the bike path. We had two recent dog bites. We’ve had dogs fighting with other dogs in their own yards.
“We have good responsible pet owners and we have some not-so-good pet owners and we continue to have problems with the not-so-good pet owners.”
The Idaho Mountain Express has received two reports this summer of dogs at large killing a family’s pet cat that was on its owner’s property.
The most recent was in Sun Valley on July 4. An earlier account reported that a cat was killed by a dog at large in Hailey on June 9.
Laws applying to dogs are similar throughout Blaine County and its municipalities. There are laws against dogs being at large, dogs being a nuisance or dogs deemed dangerous. They’re all misdemeanor offenses and typically can lead to fines of up to $300. There are no leash-requirement laws, though if dogs are not on a leash they are required to be within voice command of their owner. For any of the offenses, police have the authority to impound the animal.
Dog cases are frequent in Blaine County Magistrate Court. There were five cases listed for hearings on court dockets this week. One was for having a dangerous animal, another was a dog nuisance case and three were dog-at-large cases.
In one of the dog-at-large cases, animals described as pit bulls killed a 13-year-old Siamese cat named Ling in Sun Valley on July 4.
A Wood River Valley man pleaded guilty to the charge on Monday. He was given a 60-day suspended jail sentence, placed on unsupervised probation for 18 months and fined $252.50.
Family mourns death of cat
The Express learned about Ling’s death from her owner, Bob Jackson, who said the pit bulls were allowed to run at large when the dog owner was working in a Sun Valley condominium complex.
Jackson said he didn’t see the dogs kill Ling, but showed up about five minutes later to find the cat dead in his yard. However, two of his neighbors saw the killing and provided the information to Sun Valley police.
Jackson said one of the witnesses was a 6-year-old boy, who was very upset by the killing.
“Yeah, he was traumatized and crying and his mother had to calm him down,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he was disappointed that the dog owner didn’t get a larger fine and that he wasn’t ordered to pay restitution.
“I was hoping to get some amount of restitution for Ling, as I was planning to donate the funds to the Wood River Animal Shelter because Ling came from the Boise Humane Society,” he said.
Jackson said Ling was like a member of the family. They got her as a kitten and had had her almost 14 years.
The earlier case was reported to the Express in a letter to the editor from Hailey resident Rich Mclntyre that was published in the June 19 edition. He reported on a family cat that was killed by a dog at large on June 9 in the Northridge area of Hailey.
“I feel great sympathy for the parents who have to try to explain to their children how something like this could happen,” Mclntyre wrote. “My sympathy for the family is matched by my disdain for the irresponsible dog owner who allowed this to occur.”
Neither the dog nor its owner were identified and the killing was not reported to Hailey police.
Mclntyre wrote further that he recently had to fight off a snarling dog that was “trying to get through an interior yard fence to go after my cats.”
Gunter said he’s now assigned Patrol Officer Forrest Danilson as code enforcement and animal control officer.
“It is a problem but we are working on it,” Gunter said. “This is because of people allowing their dogs to run at large, and we will continue to impound them and cite their owners.”
Interim Sun Valley Police Chief Walt Femling said dogs at large continue to be a problem in Sun Valley.
“I think we get quite a few calls about dogs. Mostly they’re for lost dogs. Not too many vicious dogs, but we still get a lot of those calls.
“We had someone get bit a few months ago.
“I would characterize it as a consistent problem as long as I can remember,” said Femling, who previously served as Blaine County sheriff. “There’s responsible dog owners and there’s irresponsible dog owners, and I would hope that most of them are responsible.”