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By MARCY STAMPER

Grappling with an increasing number of animal complaints – almost 1,000 each year – Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers has appointed a deputy to handle animal control.
The county has averaged 700 to 800 calls annually, ranging from nuisance reports about barking dogs to more serious complaints involving abuse and neglect, said Rogers.
“We felt we had to do something,” said Rogers, who said there had been an increase in the past three to four years in calls about neglected or abandoned livestock. He cited recent cases in the northern part of the county where horses had simply been turned loose.
Rogers has assigned Deputy David Yarnell to handle animal-control issues in the county starting June 1. The reassignment will necessitate shifting duties among deputies, but there is no additional budget for the position, said Rogers, who presented the plan to the county commissioners on Tuesday (May 7).
Handling animal complaints can be quite time-consuming, since cases must be carefully documented and require extensive follow-up, said Rogers. In a case of neglect, the process can take at least a month, from putting an animal owner on notice to returning several weeks later to see if the problem has been rectified.
If the county has to seize an animal, a veterinarian must certify the need and the sheriff must obtain a search warrant and court order from a judge, said Rogers.
Once an animal has been seized, the county is responsible to feed and care for it until the owner has had a trial. The sheriff’s office typically works with people throughout the county to care for the animals, said Rogers.
“There are people who want to help, but it’s hard in the winter to feed the animals, particularly when they have their own livestock,” he said.
The county instituted a protocol for handling reports of wolf incidents in February, but has so far only had a few investigations connected with wolves, said Rogers. Yarnell will receive specialized training to assist in wolf investigations, including what to look for in attacks on livestock, said Rogers.
Animal problems should still be reported to the sheriff’s dispatch phone line, (509) 422-7232.