Meet the new Manager of Animal Protection and Control and Code Enforcement


Hello, I’m Jim Demmon with Clark County Close Up. Thank you so much for meeting with us. Thank you for having me. Susan, you started in your position as manager of both Code Enforcement and Animal Protection Control in September. What was your previous background. I have over 20 years of experience in public service. Most recently I worked for the Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office as a Senior Deputy Fire Marshal and I was in that position for around 13 years. So I’m thrilled to have a new challenge still within Clark County and still serving our citizens. OK. Earlier this summer there were some unexpected temporary service reductions for both code enforcement and animal control. Are service levels fully restored? Not quite. I do want to start out by thanking and recognizing the existing staff for all their hard work over the summer and the fall, as well as the community members that stepped up during those times and really helped kind of keep things afloat. They did an amazing, amazing job. We are still down a little bit so I have one officer in each of those two offices to hire still. Do you anticipate fairly soon giving those positions filled? I anticipate having those positions filled by the end of January. OK, all right. So let’s start first with code enforcement, what is the role of code enforcement? Yes, our code enforcement division is in charge of responding to concerns about code enforcement issues related to zoning, related to nuisances in neighborhoods and in commercial areas, and to building code violations in some cases, as well as land use. OK. About how many officers you have to patrol. We currently have one officer and one lead officer that are covering the whole county. And like I mentioned before we still have one vacancy that we need to fill. And when you’ve saying the whole county, are you talking just unincorporated Clark County, not the cities? Correct. Vancouver and the small cities enforce their own jurisdictions. OK now let’s switch to animal control. What’s the role of animal control? Animal control is responding to concerns and complaints about animal related issues. That would include neglecting cruelty cases, that would include nuisances such as barking dogs which is very common, as well as animals running at large, commonly known as strays. We pick up dead animals and in some circumstances as well. So pretty much anything domestic animal related we will respond to. And do you serve the entire county beyond just unincorporated Clark County? Yes we do on the animal protection and control side we do serve the city of Vancouver as well as the town of Yacolt. And we are also speaking with the Cowlitz Tribe about forming a partnership with them to provide services at their casino site up the road. And how many officers cover Clark County? So we currently have three certified officers and one trainee on staff, and we have that one officer position yet to fill. Okay, so with enforcement, could you just give us a few examples of the kind of complaints that you deal with? Certainly, this time of year when the leaves are off the trees often properties are a little more visible to neighbors than they were the rest of the year and so we get a uptick in the types of complaints dealing with property nuisances, such as junk or debris in accumulations or an operable vehicles. People living in Rvs that type of thing. So, if I noticed something in my neighborhood, I live in unincorporated Clark County, what are some initial steps I should take? We would always recommend that you start with having a conversation directly with your neighbor, with the property owner. Oftentimes you can also speak with a homeowner’s association if you have one and they can offer some remedies in some cases if there’s violations of their CC&Rs as well. If that doesn’t yield results then they are welcome to call code enforcement or to go on our website. The best way to file a complaint with us is to use our online form. And we’ll show those contact information at the end of the interview. OK so now let’s turn to animals. First, why is it important to license your pet? Well the license fees that we collect are a significant revenue stream for our program. It supports our investigations of cruelty and neglect, as well as our other services to the community, such as low cost spay and neutering, as well as sheltering at the shelter out there at The Humane Society. And then of course if you have an animal potentially they could get out, get lost. So if an animal has a license tag it is likely to be reunited with its family much faster than if it is not. In the wintertime what are some common complaints that you receive regarding animals. In the winter time on the animal’s side, the nuisance noise complaints tend to kind of fall off and unfortunately we start seeing a lot more of the neglect and cruelty cases. Often we see pets or domestic animals or livestock that are not given adequate food, water or shelter from the elements. Obviously those kind of complaints are responses to being much quicker, so how are those complaint calls handled? Sure, we do have a dispatcher that works Monday through Friday during the day. She does take most of our online and telephone complaints. We have a priority system basically. For the most urgent calls where there’s imminent threat to an animal or persons life or property those are red coded calls and those are deemed for a immediate response. The next level priority are the blue calls. Those are the public service calls and requests that are not emergent in nature but still need to be addressed within the next several hours. And then lastly the green priority calls are the general nuisance calls. We get a lot of those and just based on our staffing resources we have to address those kind of as we can. This fall the road number of raccoons and cats apparently poisoned in Vancouver. Have these posionings stopped? Well I can say that since we did the news feature and got information about that out to the public, those calls have dramatically decreased. So that’s great, great news. We have not received, to my knowledge, any more reports of dead raccoons in Fir Crest Park. We do still occasionally get calls where we have cats that appear to be suffering from from poisoning. We have not been able to prove that anyone was intentionally poisoning animals. But it is a good reminder again for folks that it is illegal to put out poison bait of any kind in an area that is accessible to domestic pets. OK. Winter can be especially tough on pets as we talked about. What are some extra steps that pet owners should take to keep their animals safe for wintertime? So I looked into this specifically as we were coming into this season, and also the other inquiries from the media about this, based on what veterinarians will tell us that despite the fur that a lot of animals have they’re still not really any more suited for cold weather than we are. You know we’ve we’ve raised them and domesticated them to a point where they’re used to being inside and that’s what they can deal with. They are not necessarily better suited to deal with cold weather than we are, so veterinarians will recommend that animals are kept indoors. Pets are kept indoors except for the walks and exercise that are necessary. Also, if for some reason the pet has to be kept outdoors. The owner is responsible for providing adequate freshwater, food to maintain a healthy body weight, as well as shelter from the elements, including wind, rain, snow, and that would include dry bedding. All right, are there community resources available for horse hardship cases? There are and I want to talk about that specifically because in our community there is an estimated 30,000 horses in the county here. Thirty thousand? Yes. Wow! Yes. We are a big horse loving community and fortunately there is a large dedicated community of horse owners here. And Clark County Animal Protection and control in conjunction with the Clark County Executive Horse Council does have a program called Ripley’s Horse Aid. And that is designed to prevent horse neglect. What we do is we invite any horse owner that is suffering a hardship, and for whatever reason is not able to adequately care for their horse or horses, to please contact our office at animal protection and control. We will help them get the food, medical services, other help that they need to prevent neglect from ever occurring or comes to the point where they would need finding homes for their horses, re-homing them, then the Executive Council also has an adopt-a-horse program that we can connect folks with. So there’s no reason for horses to go hungry or to suffer in Clark County. The resources are there to address that. OK. And if you notice a horse in your community that might have issues you could share that information with the owner. But if you have concerns and are being addressed maybe contact…? Absolutely. Absolutely. You’re always welcome to contact somebody directly. Talk to them about the help that might be available or what your concerns are, and then refer them to us. If it gets to a point where that’s not working or you still have concerns about the well-being of the animals do not hesitate to contact animal protection and control. OK so now let’s give the information. If people want more information about Code Enforcement or Animal Protection and Control they can check the website which will show clark.wa.gov/community-development and then from there they can get to your services, both Code Enforcement and Animal Protection and Control. Okay then let’s give the numbers, for Clark County Code Enforcement the number is 564.397.2408. Correct and that is for filing concerns or complaints. For Code Enforcement. Then for Clark County Animal Protection and Control there’s two numbers. Licensing, if you want to get a license I’m assuming. 564.397.2489. Correct and a reminder that cats and dogs are required to be licensed in Clark County and the City of Vancouver. Okay and again all those license fees not only protect your animals but protects all the animals in Clark County. Absolutely. OK. And then the final number for concerns 564.397.2488. That’s it. Okay, well thank you very much for meeting with us. You’re dealing with two major issues so really appreciate it and Happy Holidays. Thank you, same to you.

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