Dependable Erection

Sunday, April 05, 2009

OK, i'm back

Haven't quite finished the revamping of the visual aspects, but that's coming. We did manage to finish the kitchen redo, i've yanked most of the invasive Chinese privet out of the back, cleaned out the garage (bad news? Philco Recycling Services, the guys who used to be in the Whole Foods parking lot recycling everything one Saturday a month, seem to have bailed, and i've got a car full of styrofoam and plastic that needs a new home) we have a pretty good idea of what we want to do with a deck in the back yard, and i got all of the Steely Dan vinyl re-digitized with the new turntable, and it sounds great.

I was kinda hoping that Durham would get its shit together while i was gone, so i wouldn't feel any pressure to come back, if you know what i mean. That detoxing can get kinda addictive in its own right.

But, no such luck.

Kevin's already been writing about the earlier this week about noting that Durham has $1.2 million in unpaid fines that it isn;t collecting. These fines have been levied against landlords for various code violations. The city isn't collecting the money because it can't use it to balance the budget, but instead has to turn it over to Durham Public Schools. So collecting it hasn't been a high priority.

Here's a clue for our elected and appointed officials.

Most of us don't know the difference between the various branches of local government. It's all "Durham" to us. And those of us who do understand the difference? We don't give a fuck. The fines aren't to help the school system pay for after-school programs, although that's a nice benefit. The fines are to discourage rotten landlord behavior. And for those of us who live next to houses that are owned by rotten landlords, you can't fine them fast enough to start changing their behavior. Hopefully Tom Bonfield gets it, and rather quickly, how bad this makes the city look.

Meanwhile, some moron with a couple of pit bulls let them run loose on the greenway between the Duke Park and Trinity Park neighborhoods about 2 weeks ago, where they attacked and killed another dog being walked by a 10 year old.

Lovely.

Even lovelier?

The County Animal Control Deparatment managed to take one of the dogs into custody, but not the other one. As of last week, the second dog was still considered to be at-large. I've talked to a number of people who use the greenway regularly who have stopped using it. The county is pretty lucky that only a dog was killed.

No one has claimed the dog that was picked up, so there is apparently no way to find out who owned the dog that is still loose. In fact, when i attended the meeting of the Animal Control Advisory Board last Tuesday night, the director of the shelter said that she could not be certain that the dog had not been turned in by its owner to be euthanized.

I asked that, since the shelter puts down approximately 80 dogs per week, how many pit bulls matching that description might have been put down over the past week. She couldn't tell me that, only that about 60% of the dogs euthanized at the shelter were pit bulls.

I was kinda surprised that almost all of the discussion at the ACAB centered around the 911 response to the emergency callas placed during the dog attack. Yes, clearly there's some protocols that need to be changed at 911 when it comes to dangerous animal issues. The county only has one Animal Control officer on duty during the hours of 5pm to 8am, and on the weekends. That's a lot of hours to have that minimal coverage, and it makes sense to me to have the police brought into the picture more readily when AC officers might be otherwise occupied, as apparently the officer on duty two Mondays ago was.

But that's not the only problem here. There's was lots of heated discussion on various local listservs about potential solutions, but pretty much everybody agreed that there's an abundance of "irresponsible" pet owners in Durham. (Personally, i think irresponsible to too gentle a word for a great many of those folks, but i'll use it for this discussion.) There's a lot more that needs to be done in that area. Moving the animal license fee over to the tax people is a very small first step that will, hopefully, get the number of unregistered pets in Durham county down from the 60% or so level (you read that right - Cindy Bailey at Animal Control estimates the number of unlicensed dogs and cats in Durham at around 60% of the total population). But then what?

What penalties accrue to not registering your animal? Or not getting it vaccinated? Or letting it run around, intact, making more unwanted puppies? Or worse, breeding your dog for fighting? Let's not pretend that isn't a huge problem in Durham.

Here's another thing. I don't know how detailed the minutes of the ACAB get, or even if they get published on the county website. Last i looked i couldn't find them.

The director of the animal shelter raised a concern during the discussion about 911 that getting the police involved in potentially dangerous animal situations is going to lead to more innocent animals being shot by poorly trained officers.

Physician, heal thyself. Apparently, you already knew about this incident at the time you were complaining about the police being involved in dangerous animal situations because it might lead to innocent animals being killed. Personally, i'm willing to take that risk, if it means that the likelihood of some kid getting mauled by someone's fighting dogs is minimized. But really, the irony of the animal shelter director, who's just suspended an employee for putting down the wrong dog, complaining about the risk that the police might get trigger happy is just too delicious.

Let's fix the real damn problems first, then we can worry about the hypotheticals.

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9 Comments:

  • Welcome back, Barry.

    By Blogger John, at 1:24 PM  

  • I was hoping to announce my return on a billboard, but i didn't qualify as a non-profit charitable organization.

    By Blogger Barry, at 3:29 PM  

  • Thank G-d. Just in time for Passover, too.

    I love Kevin's site, but since it's become popular he's watered down the editorial commentary. I don't agree with you much (and my and Brian's sites don't generate enough traffic to argue the libertarian point of view), but at least you stick your neck out. Welcome back.

    By Blogger KeepDurhamDifferent!, at 10:47 PM  

  • I probably should have waited until next Sunday to start posting again.

    By Blogger Barry, at 11:32 PM  

  • Glad you're back, Barry!

    I'm also glad you posted about the dog attack...I wanted to write about it myself but to be honest, I couldn't (and still can't really) get my head around it.

    My bias is generally that problems caused by people who don't follow the law can rarely be fixed by more/different laws. So it really comes down to better enforcement of what's on the books.

    I agree that the move of animal registration to tax collection is probably a small step in the right direction, but I doubt how much of a difference it will actually make. The personal property tax notices are pretty easy to ignore/fudge (I'm not aware of anyone on patrol for, say, undisclosed jetskis.) They know about my car and my dog because (being the law-abiding citizen that I am) I've already registered both of them.

    I am also very wary of getting police involved in anything but the most emergent animal issues (which the incident on the greenway would certainly qualify as, based on the accounts I've read.) I don't think the shelter director's fears are unfounded (see here). For far too many police (especially young, relatively inexperienced ones, which Durham has a lot of) the threshold for using deadly force is far too low, and for non-humans, almost non-existent.

    To me this all points to expanding the enforcement resources of animal control...particularly during the evenings and weekends, which are the very times that most people are out and about with (and without) dogs, and therefore more likely to encounter dangerous animal-type situations.

    Probably a pipe dream in lean budget times, but there it is.

    By Blogger Brian, at 8:27 AM  

  • Unless i've missed a news report, it appears to me that the shelter has put down more innocent dogs than the PD has this year.

    Also, the woman representing the county attorney's office had some interesting news for Commissioner Becky heron, who was under the impression that the county would be able to act swiftly and strongly in cases where people failed to register their taxable property (ie dogs) with the county. Something about due process and court cases and tax liens and stuff. Seems like it might end up costing the county a lot of money to collect that $75 in unpaid licensing fees for intact or unspayed dogs. So i think you're right. I'm not looking for a big reduction in the number of unregistered animals.

    I wonder how the rest of the country handles this problem?

    By Blogger Barry, at 8:57 AM  

  • Just musing here, but it strikes me that there's a lot of "not my baliwick" nonsense that goes on in the city government. Parking on lawns is planning, not zoning, or maybe it's NIS. Dogs barking are animal control, but other noise violations are, what? In each case, each department is vastly understaffed for effective enforcement.

    What if all patrol positions were consolidated under a generalized Public Safety and Enforcement department, separate from the police, but with strong information sharing between them. Train all of the personnel in this PS&E department on all codes, including parking violations, noise, NIH, zoning, planning, animal control, whatever. (I understand that animal control is to some degree a special case as far as dogcatchers go, but my hypothetical PS&E folks could at least notice stray and/or improperly chained dogs.)

    This would have an additional benefit of setting up a parallel public safety unit, similar to that used by Duke, where you have an armed and highly trained (and more highly paid) police force augmented by a more generalized unarmed security force whose main job is to notice things and get on the radio if they see something.

    Is this nuts?

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 5:52 PM  

  • Actually, Michael, Planning is zoning, and in Durham's case, is the enforcing agency for lawn parking and other violations, like signs on utility poles, etc.

    When they want to they can be effective, like when we got a registered letter from the city a few years ago telling us (DPNA) that we faced a $300 per day per sign fine for all the sings we had hung promoting our National Night Out event.

    Which is why i get so pissed off when things like multi-family dwellings being constructed in single family zoned areas are just ignored.

    Barking dogs, by the way, are not a problem for Animal control any more. They dropped that from the nuisance animal ordinance in September of '07; the reasoning being that both the city and the county specifically mention dogs in their respective noise ordinances. Problem is, as i hear it, Chief Lopez doesn't want to waste his officers' time dealing with such trivialities as dogs.

    so in essence, we have one of the best written noise ordinances in the US, with absolutely no enforcement capability.

    As to you PS&E suggestion, i've been saying the same thing, perhaps with a different name, for a couple of years. Makes too much sense to ever happen here.

    By Blogger Barry, at 11:11 PM  

  • Barry,

    A couple of important dog-related legislative issues are being reviewed in the state legislature, FYI, one of them being a statewide tethering ordinance.

    House Bill 626 and Senate Bill 695 will limit (not ban) tethering, but they need support.

    WRT the spay/neuter issue, the State Senate is reviewing a bill that will help (hopefully) encourage spaying & neutering (and the likely concurrent vaccination and licensing) of pets.

    See full text of Senate Bill 470 I encourage your readers to write their elected officials in support of S470. Note that Durham's Sen. Bob Atwater is a co-sponsor of S470 - WTG, Bob!

    By Blogger Halle, at 9:52 AM  

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