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Hounding owners to follow the rules



Published: Sun, May 13, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- John Klenec, deputy dog warden for Mahoning County, has a simple response for local residents who feel he's not doing his job: "We can't be everywhere at once."

Yet that explanation doesn't seem to satisfy Desiree Boggs.

"When we need the dog warden, he should be out here immediately," Boggs, of Brooklyn Avenue, said after a recent discussion with Klenec. "There have been numerous dogs loose in the area and they don't do anything."

Many local residents may agree with Boggs after what appeared to be a rash of dog attacks in the county earlier this year. The most serious attack occurred Feb. 22 on Youngstown's South Side, where two Rottweilers mauled 75-year-old Joseph J. Locicero of Poland. Locicero bled heavily from the legs.

Hears it often: When asked how often he is criticized by local residents like Boggs, Klenec answered, "All the time." They often curse at him while giving him obscene gestures, he said.

That's when Klenec shows the local residents the dogs he has captured and placed in the cages in the back of his truck.

The truck carries eight cages -- four for small dogs, four for large. When Klenec spoke with Boggs, the truck held one small dog that had been caught under a porch.

On a typical day, Klenec responds to about 20 calls for a dog warden, he said. The calls may involve catching stray dogs, preventing dog attacks, or citing local residents for not following dog license laws.

Klenec is one of only four deputy dog wardens who patrol Mahoning County, including Youngstown. He is mainly responsible for the city's South Side.

Day's events: A recent workday began at 8 a.m., when he helped clean out the cages in the dog warden's Industrial Road office. The office has 50 cages to hold dogs caught by the deputies. And here's how the day continued:

U By 9:45 a.m., Klenec was in his truck and responding to a call that several dogs were not leashed outside of a home on West Boston Avenue. Klenec arrived at the home to find two unlicensed dogs on leashes in the back yard. One dog had puppies.

Klenec spoke with the dogs' owner, Frances Riffle, who said she had let the mother dog loose the previous day to play with the puppies. Klenec told Riffle that if she did not buy licenses for the dogs within a week, she would be cited and asked to appear in municipal court.

A citation for having an unlicensed dog can carry an $85 fine. Riffle said she planned to buy the licenses.

U At 10:15 a.m., Klenec was on his way to his next call -- a report of a stray dog on Earle Avenue. He said most of the calls to the dog warden's office come from the neighbors of homes in which dogs were mistreated or not leashed.

Klenec spent 45 minutes trying to track down three small dogs. He managed to catch one after crawling under a porch. The other two escaped.

"These ones are the rough ones to catch," Klenec said. "They're a little skittish."

U Klenec then spent a few minutes searching for two strays he had seen near a garage down the street. He said he had tried to catch the two strays several times in the past.

They managed to avoid his capture on this day too, despite Klenec's efforts to pursue them through a vacant lot overgrown with weeds and vines.

U By 11 a.m., Klenec was heading to Brooklyn Avenue to investigate a report of a Rottweiler on the loose. The report had been made to Youngstown police after the dog warden's office had closed the day before.

That's when Klenec met Boggs, who said the Rottweiler had been walking near schoolchildren after they had gotten off the bus. Klenec told Boggs that the dog warden was not responsible for freeing the Rottweiler.

"It's your neighbors that are causing all these problems by letting the dogs out," he said.

Irresponsible owners: County Dog Warden Carol Markovich added that some of the local dog problems could be solved if dog owners were more responsible. She said dog owners should have their pets spayed and neutered, and noted that all dogs in Ohio must be licensed.

"We need to make people aware that this is not an option," Markovich said. "Once you choose to own the dog, you have to follow the rules."

A total of about 32,000 dogs are licensed in Mahoning County, she said. The dog warden's office housed 3,000 dogs last year.

Markovich said about 700 of those dogs were adopted. The rest were either reclaimed by their owners or put to sleep. The dog warden's office puts stray dogs to sleep if they are not adopted within three days. Licensed dogs are put to sleep after 14 days.

* Klenec finished his morning by dropping off the stray he had caught under the porch. His typical workday ends at 4:30 p.m.

"All I do is catch dogs," he said.

hill@vindy.com




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