Stray, unlicensed dogs plague Bridgeport streets, neighborhoods

Chihuahuas are most prolific

Bill Zweigle handles animal control issues for the cities of Bridgeport and Mansfield.
BRIDGEPORT – At-large and unlicensed dogs are becoming a problem within the city limits. At its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, June 21, the city council pursued possible remedies with animal control contractor, Bill Zweigle, who also handles Mansfield dog issues. Zweigle said that some 75 percent of the stray dogs he captures are Chihuahuas, and those he fails to catch escape into the area’s trailer courts.

BRIDGEPORT – At-large and unlicensed dogs are becoming a problem within the city limits. At its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, June 21, the city council pursued possible remedies with animal control contractor, Bill Zweigle, who also handles Mansfield dog issues.
Zweigle said that some 75 percent of the stray dogs he captures are Chihuahuas, and those he fails to catch escape into the area’s trailer courts.
Zweigle said he picked up his 21st dog on June 20, and averages 60 to 65 impounds in a year, so is a little behind the average
“Regardless of the count, that’s just too many for the population of our little community, to have that much recycling of dogs,” said Zweigle.
Council member Jackie Hentges said one of the main problems is establishing ownership and responsibility of unlicensed dogs.
Public works director, Stuart Dezellem said a dog license does not keep a dog from running at large.
“I think we need to be writing more citations,” said Dezellem “People do not change habits until you financially pain them.”
Dezellem used the service call charge for utility customers as an example.
“We had 30 to 40 monthly service calls that only charged five dollars, but as soon as we went to $25 that dropped to a handful,” Dezellem said.
 Zweigle said he has been advised by the sheriff’s department that he cannot pick up a dog based solely on a citizen complaint unless he has personally witnessed the infraction.
“If that’s a law, it’s a horrible law,” said Zweigle “because the police are not believing our citizens that a dog was there at such and such a time.”
Zweigle advises citizens to record the dog incident with a photo to verify that an infraction took place.
Dezellem said that with the abundance of cell phone cameras owned today “it’s pretty easy to get a photo of a dog running at large.”
As the law now reads, Zweigle said he does not have the authority to write a citation.
Mayor Janet Conklin said she would check with the city attorney about allowing the animal control to issue citations.
Council members discussed procedures used in other jurisdictions to address dogs at large.  
“I took a stroll Saturday (June 17) from 12th and Douglas to the 1000 block on Columbia and was attacked by dogs going down and attacked by dogs coming back,” Dezellem said.
A citizen in the audience added the telling observation that “you can’t walk your dog in this town on a leash.”
One idea is to have Zweigle use some of his time to do more foot patrols and make door-to-door calls on residents to inquire about ownership and legality of dogs they own. Conklin said she will also discuss Zweigle’s animal control hours with Mansfield’s mayor before council revisits dog control measures at its next regular meeting on Wednesday, July 19.

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