Local News

Tuesday, Apr 01 2014 04:29 PM

County report highlights dangers of stray dogs

BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

Animals bit hundreds of people in unincorporated Kern County in 2013, including four sheriff's deputies, while officials documented 2,280 complaints of stray and vicious dogs.

Using the data, Kern County Animal Services officials drew a clear picture for the Board of Supervisors Tuesday of where the county's biggest problems with violent dogs are.

In 2013, Animal Services reported 1,476 people were bit by a dog in county jurisdictions -- nearly half of them from only three zip codes in metropolitan Bakersfield.

Twenty-two percent of those bites took place in 93308 -- generally Oildale and county sections of Rosedale east of Coffee Road and north of the Kern River.

Another 13 percent were in 93306 -- generally east of Mount Vernon Avenue between Highway 178 and Edison Highway. Twelve percent were in 93307, covering much of southeast Bakersfield.

Kern County also received 2,280 calls about dogs running free in neighborhoods around the county. Just less than 58 percent came from the same three zip codes.

Kern County Animal Services Director Shyanne Schull also noted that those three zip codes also produce the largest share of animals brought into county animal shelters.

Supervisor Mike Maggard, whose district includes large portions of the '08 and '06 zip codes, said he asked for the report to highlight the dangers these animals pose.

Kern County sheriff's officials and County Counsel Theresa Goldner explained, at Maggard's request, what rights people walking down the street have to defend themselves.

The public is encouraged to get away from the animal, if possible, and report the problem to Animal Services. People who can't get to safety or avoid the animal have the right to defend themselves with sufficient force needed to stay safe -- even deadly force.

Kern County sheriff's officers shot nine dogs in 2013.

That doesn't give people clearance to hurt animals without justification or use an illegal weapon against an animal, though, officials said.

DESERT DUST

Supervisors also heard a complaint and request for help from Inyokern-area residents troubled by blowing dust from a neighboring property.

Julie Pennix from Black Mountain Estates said that a year ago, the owner of 80 acres graded the land -- removing plants and animals from the property -- without a working water well or any dust suppression plan in place.

Since then 13 significant wind storms have driven sand and dust from the property into dunes around houses, through sealed doors and windows and across everything inside, she said.

"Our homes are repeatedly inundated by fine particulate matter," Pennix said.

Other residents talked about not being able to drive their cars through feet-high dunes, breathing the stuff in and having to remove truckloads of sand from their property.

Resident Chris Gill begged supervisors to declare the property a nuisance and order the property owner to abate the problem.

His wife never had respiratory problems before the land was graded but now has to take daily medication to overcome the health problems the dust has created, Gill said.

Kern County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt said the county is looking at an EIR to look at larger land permitting rules in the Indian Wells Valley.

She said it might be appropriate to look at requiring a simple permit that land owners would have to acquire before doing similar land grading.

County Counsel Goldner said the county Engineering, Permitting and Survey Services Department has already posted an abatement notice on the property and would be ready -- if supervisors wish -- to hold a formal hearing on the issue next Tuesday.

Supervisor Mick Gleason said the situation has been "horrible" for residents and made a motion to refer the issue to county staff and have them prepare a hearing on the matter.

The motion was passed.

REAL ESTATE FRAUD

Supervisors also increased a fee collected on real estate transactions from $2 to $10.

Money from the fee is used to investigate and prosecute real estate fraud. Over the last five years, the county has pulled in an average of $196,000 a year from the fee.

The increase in the fee is expected to bring in an additional $857,000, which will be used to fund part-time real estate fraud investigators in the Bakersfield Police Department, Kern County Sheriff's Office and Kern County District Attorney's office as well as provide funding for prosecution by the district attorney.

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