By Joe Morey
At their weekly meeting on Nov. 27, the Lac Courte Orielles Tribal Governing Board (TGB) voted unanimously to extend the Tribe’s annual Cooperative Law Enforcement Agreement for 2024 with the Sawyer County Sheriff’s Office.
The agreement was changed last year from monies used for a drug task force to providing funding of a full time Animal Control Officer, including salary, fringe, expenses and other costs associated with animal control on the LCO Reservation. The grant award from the state of Wisconsin, which comes back to local communities from Gaming Compact funds paid to the state, is a total of $49,860.
LCO Vice Chairman Tweed Shuman who also serves as Sawyer County Board Chairman said all parties are in favor of continued use of the grant for animal control on the Reservation. This included the County and the Sheriff’s Office.
The County/Tribal Law Enforcement Grant is actually funds derived from gaming compact dollars paid to the state by tribes from casino revenue. The dollars are released when the county and tribe agree on how the dollars are used and a cooperative agreement is signed.
Prior to 2020, the Sawyer County Sheriff’s Department has used the grant dollars to subsidize a county deputy working primarily on the reservation, but the TGB insisted that as a condition of the 2021 agreement that all non-criminal cases, mostly traffic citations, be heard and adjudicated in tribal court, pertaining to both tribal and non-tribal members.
The Sheriff’s Office had agreed, but only five citations over the course of a year were actually put into Tribal Court. So in 2021, in order to save the grant, both sides agreed to use the funds towards a drug task force, but this brought about a lot of contention in the community as the funds were only used to do random monthly saturation patrols.
Following disagreements in how the annual grant should proceed after the previous several years, full agreement was reached that animal control is currently the most requested call for services to the Tribal Police Department, distracting law enforcement officers from higher priority calls for services, crimes, and incidents.
According to the Agreement, the funds will support enhancement of animal control on the Reservation to include implementation of animal complaint response protocols, enhanced enforcement of tribal animal control laws and codes, maintenance of a database of animal vaccination/certifications of all dogs and cats within the reservation to protect public health, patrolling villages for animals at large and respond accordingly within protocols, and provide community education and promote awareness of proper animal/household pet care.
“As the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Police Department is currently short-staffed the full-time police officers are unable to take other calls due to the substantial number of animal complaints occurring within Reservation boundaries,” the Agreement explains. “Additionally, the Sawyer County Sheriff’s Department is also short-staffed and unable to respond to the excessive animal complaints. Having a dedicated Animal Control Officer will meet the needs of the community regarding animals and animal related reports allowing the Full Time Tribal and County Police Officers to have the capacity to respond to critical issues more efficiently.
The Agreement lists some statistics including, in 2022, there have been 12 dog bites as of October 2022 of which all required medical treatment at the Lac Courte Oreilles Health Clinic or Hayward Area Memorial Hospital. In addition, the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Police Department received 58 animal complaints as of October 2022 which show FY 2022 complaints and bite reports are expected to exceed 2021 reports (FY 2021 11 bites) and complaints (FY 2021 62) if animal control on the Reservation is left unaddressed.
Animal Control explained
Animal Control Officer and duties are explained in the Agreement as follows;
The main responsibilities of the Animal Control Officer will be to respond to investigations of animal mistreatment, rescue, and control of abandoned, dangerous, and abused animals from undesirable conditions, interact with public regarding proper animal care, and maintaining public health. The Animal Control Officer may also be responsible for the safe removal of dangerous animals that are causing disturbances to communities such as bears, coyotes, and other predators as directed by the Chief of Police and/or Conservation Director.
Additional duties will include examining animal licenses and compliance with ordinances established ensuring housing of animals is adequate, examining animals for maltreatment or injuries and arranging appropriate medical treatment as needed, investigating reports of animal attacks or animal cruelty and interviewing witnesses, collecting evidence and writing reports, issue warnings and citations of animal related offenses and referrals to Tribal Court, develop and maintain a vaccination and animal license database, provide public education on animal welfare and animal control regulations, and prepare animal offense related prosecutions and give evidence in court.
The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Police Department’s Chief of Police, Tim Debrot, will be responsible for the daily supervision and control of the hired Animal Control Officer. Chief Debrot is primarily responsible for the scheduling, directing, and overseeing the activities and operations of the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Police Department ensuring coverage is maintained for effectively meeting the calls for service and needs of the Reservation.
The Animal Control Officer will prepare, complete, and maintain all records and data of animal related incidents and violations in accordance with applicable policies, procedures, and practices of the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Police Department. This includes types of complaints, animal licensure, current vaccinations, citations issues, and other pertinent information to the position. All data will be kept confidential as required by law.