Education first, enforcement second Animal Control officer brings new approach

January 24

Hood River County’s new Animal Control Officer is hoping that educating pet owners will help many individuals avoid an enforcement action. Casey DePriest has become an expert on dog handling after almost 15 years spent as the manager of the Wasco County Animal Shelter in The Dalles. Last week she brought that experience to Hood River and is looking forward to utilizing it in the field.

“Part of an animal control officer’s job is to help people find solutions to problems whenever possible,” said DePriest, who will work out of the Sheriff’s Office.

She has taken over the duties formerly held by Becky Hoffman for the past 10 years. Hoffman relocated to Benton City, Wash., in November to operate a horse breeding and stables enterprise.

DePriest teaches dog obedience clinics privately and through the Columbia Gorge Community College. She has also been actively involved in training 4-H youth about dog care. In addition, the DePriest family includes “Jade,” a Newfoundland, “Mr. Wilson,” a Border Terrier, a cat by the name of “Miss Kitty” and “Bart” the mouse.

However, long ago Casey promised husband, Paul, that she would refrain from her instinct to adopt all of the stray animals that she encountered through her work.

The couple agreed that their household in The Dalles was lively enough with two sons, Peter, 11, and Kyle, 9. But Casey has never lost the desire to nurture the neglected and abused animals she handles. “Just because I haven’t taken them all home doesn’t mean that I’m not tempted, some of them just steal your heart,” she said.

Her interest in dogs goes back to her days in elementary school. At the age of 9, Casey was “bit” by the urge to enter competitions with her Miniature Dachshund. She then went on to enter kennel club shows with a Golden Retriever in her teen years.

So, it was a natural progression for her to seek out a career that would allow her to work with animals — and teach those skills to others. For example, DePriest said some dog owners assume their animal can remain comfortable outdoors without shelter even during severe winter storms. In reality, she said domestic animals can succumb to exposure the same as humans and need a retreat from the elements.

Although she has a soft spot for animals, DePriest also has a no-nonsense approach to handling cases where people have allowed their dog to infringe on the rights of others. Her first choice to work out an issue is to speak with both the complainant and the pet owner. DePriest believes that by talking to both parties, the cause of a problem such as incessant barking can be pinpointed.

For example, she said the dog could be reacting to the weekly visit from the garbage man that it finds threatening. Once the owner is briefed about how to resolve the situation, DePriest said she expects action to be taken or a citation will be written.

“Human and animal conflicts arise and when they do we will take the necessary steps to remedy the problem,” she said.

One thing DePriest plans to strictly enforce is the local dog license law. She said tags need to be purchased yearly to dogs six months of age or older and are reduced from $25 to $9 for spayed/neutered animals, with a senior discount of $17 that can be reduced to $5 for sterilized canines. She said licenses also help her locate the owner if a dog is impounded for running loose or biting someone.

Canines without identification are typically housed for the first three days at the All Animal Care Clinic in Hood River and then sent to Wasco County for adoption or euthanization. If they have identification, DePriest said they are held for five days while she attempts to reunite them with the owner.

She invites anyone with questions about dog care or behavior to call her 386-2098 or visit her office on the second floor of the county courthouse.

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