By Joe Morey
The LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) and Sawyer County Sheriff’s Department renewed their annual Cooperative Law Enforcement Agreement for 2023 on Sept. 30, 2023.
The new agreement provides for 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.
Following disagreements in how the annual grant should proceed after the previous two years didn’t see both sides coming to a resolution, the new agreement is one that all parties involved agree animal control is a major issue.
Over the course of the past two years, the Tribe insisted on citations being issued on the Reservation to go through Tribal Court, but that was never honored from the Sheriff’s Department. So, the two sides agreed to use the grant in 2022 to assist in drug interdiction on the Reservation, but all the funds were used for a monthly random saturation patrol targeting tribal vehicles, which became controversial.
Both sides are in full agreement 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.
Some of those incidents listed in the Agreement include drug trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, traffic stops, theft, and robbery.
Tony Price, an EMS and volunteer firefighter for the Tribe, working through Bass Lake Fire Department, was hired under the agreement to serve as the Tribe’s Animal Control Officer.
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.
Price said has been the full time officer since Sept. 5, and that he has been out in every community. He wants everyone to know to have their animals either chained up, in a kennel or in their homes and that they will receive two warnings. The third violation will result in a citation being mailed.
In explaining the process, Price said, “Either tribal PD or Sawyer will call me when they get a call. When I pick up a dog or ones brought to the pound, I’ll hold them for 7 days in quarantine, then I take them to the Northwoods Humane Society where they adopt them out.”
Price said he will usually try to find out who the dog belong to, then tell the owner to chain up the dog.
“I’ll give them a verbal warning, then written warning, then request a citation, which LCO or Sawyer will issue. Since I started, I’ve taken 20 dogs to the humane society and three cats. I’ve also had about 20 citations issued.”
Animal concerns or problems, reach Tony at 715-699-9017, Monday thru Friday from 7-3 if they have emergency and he’s unavailable, then call the sheriff’s non-emergent line at 715-634-5213.
The need for funding
The Agreement states there is a need for funding due to animal complaints being the number one request for services from the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Police Department.
“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.