One thing’s already clear, though, at least to Councilwoman Marilyn Marler.
“Overall, we need more personnel on animal control or more tickets being written,” Marler said. “That’s not just specific to open space. It’s something we hear a lot of people saying in general.”
Animal Control is part of the Missoula City-County Health Department, and environmental health director Jim Carlson said adding animal control officers is under consideration.
“That would be an issue that would need to be addressed,” Carlson said. “If there’s more responsibility given to Animal Control from the city, the city will need to fund those responsibilities.”
City communications director Ginny Merriam agrees enforcement is an issue but said adding more employees isn’t a question for the city.
“The city doesn’t have the money to hire more of anybody,” Merriam said. “We have positions that are dark.”
In the meantime, it seems dogs definitely have the upper paw. (Sorry, sorry.) Animal Control director Ed Franceschina counts four total officers for the entire county, and if things are going well, he’s got three on duty at any given time.
He counts some 12,000 licensed dogs in the county and another 20,000 unregistered canines. Nevermind guinea pigs, cats and gerbils.
— Keila Szpaller