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Possible program for dog safety

Local non-profits hope to implement program over breed-specific laws
By: Bridget Jones, Journal staff writer
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A new program hopes to be an alternative to breed-specific legislation in Auburn. Safety First, a program being organized by several local non profit groups and American Kennel Clubs, would provide community outreach in the form of low-cost spay and neuter clinics, training clinics and educational campaigns, said Lynn Howe, of the A New Hope Animal Foundation and head of volunteers for Placer County Animal Services. The groups were looking to create the program to avoid breed-specific legislation for dogs in Auburn, Howe said. “What’s really missing from the city of Auburn is a proactive community approach (to dog safety),” Howe said. “We got together and said, ‘How can we help the city of Auburn provide a safer and compassionate community around dogs.’” Howe said a large part of the program would be educational, including teaching children and adults how to approach and act around dogs. “A lot of children like to pet a dog on top of the head,” she said. “That’s a very intimidating thing for a dog.” Howe said she hopes the program can get involved in educating the community on how to properly house a dog and focus on aspects like secure fencing. The City Council would need to approve the program, and Howe said she plans to speak about it at the City Council meeting Monday. Howe said if breed-specific legislation is passed, local shelters would be overcrowded with dogs whose owners might not be able to pay to have them spayed or neutered. Cindy Long, a member of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of America, said she thinks Auburn definitely needs to update its dog ordinances, but breed-specific legislation should not be a part of that update. “It’s been proven over and over again that breed-specific laws or mandatory spay and neuter laws don’t work,” Long said. “We have to change our direction. We have to stop thinking about bans. We have to say, ‘Let’s work with the community to solve these problems.’” Lorelei Craig, a member of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of America, said she hopes to implement a lot of fun activities through the program such as dog play days in the park. Craig said the program might also be able to provide educational brochures to real estate offices, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce and fencing contractors to promote dog safety throughout the city. Educating certain members of the Auburn community could make a huge difference in the way future generations regard dog safety, Craig said. “I’m excited about potentially going into schools and educating children in a fun way,” she said. “Educating children helps to really educate the culture.” Chief Valerie Harris of the Auburn Police Department said the preliminary plan for the program seems beneficial. “On paper, what she’s provided to me seems like it has a broad range of information that would benefit any dog owner,” Harris said. “It appears to offer good support services.” Bob Richardson, Auburn City Manager, said educational programs are great, but the city always has to make sure its residents are taken care of as well. “Public education to enhance individual safety is always encouraged in Auburn,” Richardson said. “However, the city still needs the appropriate tools to keep its citizens safe.” Colfax resident and dog owner Ken Wallace said education is always a good thing, but he isn’t sure it would work with people who aren’t receptive to it. “That’s a tough one to answer,” Wallace said. “I probably lean toward the breed-specific (legislation), because pit bulls tend to be the breed that people migrate to when they want to breed aggressive animals.” Loomis resident and dog owner Michelle Wilkinson said she prefers the education program. “I think it’s a better alternative than to place a stereotype on a certain breed,” Wilkinson said. “I’ve seen all types of pit bulls, good and bad.” Howe said if City Council approves the program, she hopes to hold the first vaccination clinic by the end of the summer. Representatives of Safety First planned to have an information table at the American River Confluence Festival Sunday at the American River Overlook on Pacific Avenue. For more information call Lynn Howe at 916-652-4164. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com