Bethel cops threaten to shoot wild dogs in town

Police already giving tickets to residents with roaming dogs

Posted: Sunday, February 21, 2010

BETHEL - Police in this southwest Alaska city will seek authority to shoot dogs on the spot unless residents do a better job of keeping their pets from running wild.

Fed up with reports of dogs biting people, police have already started giving tickets to those with roaming dogs. If that doesn't convince citizens to keep their dogs on leashes, Chief Larry Elarton said he will ask city council to impose an emergency law allowing officers to shoot to kill.

"We're going to zero tolerance, unless the owner is actively looking for a dog, or they call it to us and report it, or there's some other extenuating reason," Elarton said.

Elarton said officers would be more likely to kill a dog that doesn't seem well-cared for.

Aside from bites, Elarton said health officials worry loose dogs could get rabies from wild foxes.

The city of 5,600 is home to many dogs, including barking and howling sled-dog teams staked outside houses. Its laws say dogs must be on a leash unless they're on a caretaker's property or under "voice control" in an undeveloped area with no children present.

In the past week, the department issued about 10 tickets for dogs that should have been on leashes - $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second, $75 for a third and $100 for additional violations.

On Thursday alone, the police department received seven reports of wild dogs, including of one that killed a leashed dog.

Elarton moved to Bethel two years ago to run the force. Since his arrival, police have increased their live-trapping program. Officers snag as many about 10 dogs a week, luring them with meat donated by grocery stores.

The police department also took over the local shelter after the city lost its animal control employee.

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