By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Concerns that a child could be bitten, injured or exposed is the reason behind a zero tolerance policy for wandering dogs at bus stops and school grounds, according to city officials.
With the onset of the school year, animal control officers plan to routinely patrol school grounds for loose animals, according to Animal Shelter Supervisor Louisa Maestas.
“We get a lot of calls on stray dogs at the bus stops,” Maestas said. “The dogs will follow the kids, but (many kids) don’t know not to pet a strange animal.”
Officers pick up an average of three dogs from school property a day, according to Animal Control Officer Martin Martinez. About 500 were picked up last year.
During the academic year, school personnel frequently call for removal of stray animals, he said.
Clovis Municipal Schools Community Relations Director David Briseno supported the efforts of animal control. “We’d rather do that than have anybody hurt before we react to it,” he said.
In his 23 years of employment with Clovis schools, he can’t recall any serious incidents of injury to a child from an animal. However, caution and prevention are still the best approach to any potential danger, he said.
Getting residents to secure animals and keep them away from schools is the goal of their zero tolerance policy.
“If you live near schools, make sure your dogs are contained,” Martinez said.
If a dog gets loose and wanders onto school property, the animal will be taken to the pound. Owners will be required to claim their pet and may face penalties.
Martinez said even walking with animals to bus stops or schools when picking up students can create safety issues.
Feces on school grounds is an additional concern, he said.
Dog owners can be fined, Martinez said, for allowing their pets to defecate on public property, which falls under the nuisance portion of city code.