Who let the dogs out?

2 Oct 2006 | Lance Cpl. Patrick M. Fleischman

Dogs are mans best friend is a common saying, but who’s the dogs best friend when they’re stray?Here, a stray’s best friend is the Camp Lejeune Animal Control Office. Animal control is responsible for the pick up and handling for hundreds of domestic stray animals on base, said 1st Lt. Gabriela T. Swanson, operations officer for the Provost Marshal’s Office.“We provide a place for them to stay, food and water for 24 hours until either the owner contacts PMO or they are sent to an Onslow County Animal Shelter. Camp Lejeune also covers the cost to the county for taking the animal in,” said Jerry Cole, a police officer with special enforcement for the Provost Marshal’s Office.A stray dog can be dangerous. Last year, a large number of people were bitten by stray dogs aboard Camp Lejeune, said Swanson.Any animal declared dangerous or potentially dangerous will be removed by base Animal Control from the base at the direction of PMO. Owners are responsible for damage or injury to property, people, and public buildings caused by their animals and are punishable by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to the base order 10570.1C. Camp Lejeune sends 30 to 35 animals a month to the county and the more than 6,000 stray taken to an Onslow County Animal Shelter, approximately 4,000 are euthanized while less than 2,000 are adopted, said Swanson.“Unfortunately, if you don’t take care of your animals and they do escape they are likely to be euthanized if sent to the county,” said Swanson.Out of all of the animals picked up and sent to the county, dogs make up the largest percent, said Swanson. “We want to get the word out that you are responsible for your dogs so we can bring the number of them sent to the county down.”When animals escape, they can injure people or destroy property. It can take the owners days to track their pet down if there is no collar, said Cole. “We hear a lot of ‘my child ran outside, and the dog went out with them.’ The next thing we hear is ‘Have you seen my dog?’”According to base order 10570.1C, all animals kept on base must wear a collar with the current address of the owner and a rabies vaccination tag. They must also have a microchip identification tag implanted under the animal’s skin to ensure the animal can be identified in the case of a lost collar.“We try to make every effort to locate the family that the animal belongs to, but we can only hold them for a short period of time. People need to know that this is a temporary storage facility,” said Cole.If an owner has to pick up an animal that is sent to the county animal shelter, the shelter will charge a sizable fee for the pick up and storage of their animal, added Cole.“Animal shelters in Onslow County are overcrowded and we don’t want the base to add to the problem,” said Swanson.A base housing problem, which leads to a lot of dogs being sent to the county, is the tying down of dogs an object such as a tree, also known as tethering. This is prohibited on base and leads to dogs escaping or biting people that come into the yard. It is also treated as animal cruelty under some circumstances, said Cole. "Children are especially susceptible to bites while a dog is tethered because of their size and curiosity, as well as the usual lack of supervision by the owner while tethered. Most dogs are afraid of larger people and will only bark at them, whereas with children, they feel that they are more powerful than the child and may bite,” added Cole.There are several animal bite cases a month and some are very vicious. “People need to maintain accountability for their animals, and anyone receiving a bite needs to go to the base Naval Hospital immediately to have the bite inspected and a medical report filed. If no report is filed, PMO and Animal Control cannot file a report against a possibly dangerous animal,” added Swanson.If you discover a stray domestic animal on base, contact 451-2695 for Animal Control. If there is an emergency situation regarding an animal, contact the Military Police Desk Sergeant at 451-3004.