By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

Although the problem of stray dogs in Del Norte County appears to be subsiding, outlying areas are having a tougher time.

Stray dogs have been a continual complaint for residents throughout the county, especially after two serious dog maulings a couple of years ago.

Poundmaster Glenn E. Anderson said stray dogs reported to the county dog pound are far fewer than in prior years.

andquot;I'd put it down to people spaying and neutering their dogs more now than they used to,andquot; said Anderson. andquot;We still have a lot of pups brought in, but fewer than there used to be.andquot;

Anderson said 10 to 15 years ago, the pound averaged approximately 1,200 stray dogs reported per year, with a high year of 1,400 one year. He said that figure has dropped to between 800 to 900 per year.

Anderson said the problem appears worse in outlying areas because dogcatchers can't always respond quickly enough to be effective.

andquot;Of course, it all depends on the year and the time of year. The problem moves around a lot,andquot; Anderson said. andquot;But we do have problems further out, like in Klamath and Smith River, because these are places we can't get to in a minute.andquot;

In the past three years, three people were mauled by loose dogs in those areas. Carol Brackett was attacked while riding her bicycle in Smith River, and Bunia Hampson and Addie Walker were mauled, at different times, by the same black labrador mix in Klamath Glen.

Anderson said he has been staffed with two permanent full-time dog catchers who share duties seven days per week. At any given time, however, there is usually only one catcher on duty, since one has weekends off and the other takes Tuesdays and Wednesdays off.

A full-time temporary position has been vacant since December.

Unless a dog is attacking or threatening to attack someone, Anderson said little will be done during nighttime hours.

andquot;After hours, and if it's not an emergency, people will have to leave a message and we will respond the next morning. These are usually complaints about barking dogs,andquot; he said. andquot;We are limited in money and allotted only so much for emergency after-hours calls.andquot;

Anderson said most emergency calls go through the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office after hours and the dispatcher will contact an animal control officer as needed.

This week, Crescent City adopted a permanent contract with the county for animal control services. In the contract, the city agrees to pay 17 percent of the net cost of running the animal shelter per year.

The payment due to the city may vary between $10,000 to $18,000 per year, according to city staff.

At the City Council meeting on Monday, Councilman Herb Kolodner, who lives on Pebble Beach Drive, said the stray dog problem in his area seems to have been reduced.

andquot;I haven't heard any recent complaints about animal control in the city,andquot; said City Manager Dave Wells.