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Pointing fingers

Residents seek answers from county committee over dog attack response
Pointing fingers
Sheriff Larry Woebbeking
Pointing fingers
Sheriff Larry Woebbeking

Complaints over the perceived lack of action by area law enforcement agencies following a dog attack in February were raised at the April 12 county law enforcement committee.

City of Medford resident Amber Chaffee recounted how on February 5, her eight-year-old son Logan was playing with his brother and a neighbor girl in their yard when a neighbor’s dog escaped its yard and attacked Logan. A passerby stopped the attack and returned the animal to its yard, but it escaped again and began chasing another youth who was riding a scooter through the area. Medford police arrived at that point and followed the dog. The owner of the dog was ticketed for dogs at large and following state law the dog was quarantined for 10 days. Because the owners had proof of rabies vaccination, the quarantine could be done at the residence.

“We could hear the dog barking,” See RESIDENTS on page 5 Chaffee said, noting that the incident has left her son with emotional wounds.

Chaffee said they waited for more to happen finally talking to members of law enforcement.

“It is my opinion this process took too long,” Chaffee said. She said the city needs to have an ordinance change to address what to do when a child is attacked.

While the county has an ordinance calling for the removal from the county of a vicious animal, the city does not. The city cannot write county tickets. While the city could have written a ticket under the state vicious animal law, there was doubt about the circumstances meeting the requirements of that law.

Chaffee brought her concerns to the Medford city council committee of the whole meeting on April 9 and said that after the article appeared in The Star News more information was brought forward.

She said she was contacted by an individual who informed her that the dog, which had only been brought to Medford in December had a bite history in the state where it had come from.

“This dog is an active weapon ready to attack again,” Chaffee said calling on the county to bring action to improve community safety.

Committee chairman Lynn Rosemeyer said that from what she understood the city was working on crafting an ordinance. The question from the committee members was why didn’t the county have more involvement.

“We were never involved,” said sheriff Larry Woebbeking. He said the sheriff’s department was never involved in the investigation other than some side discussions. He said it was the city of Medford’s investigation and that they never reached out to his department for help with it. He said that it is up to a smaller agency such as the city police to ask a larger agency to take over an investigation when they can’t handle it.

Woebbeking said having larger agencies going in to take over cases without being asked would create “a state of chaos.” Woebbeking said that in this case, the police would have needed to make an official request to take over the case. “That is how it works to be seamless,” he said.

Woebbeking also noted that Chaffee never came into his office. He said he spoke with Chaffee’s mother, Betty Herrell and told her that if the city runs into a dead end to come back. “Nobody has ever come back,” he said.

“We have never been asked to take over the investigation,” Woebbeking said, noting that if the city wants the county to take over the investigation they will.

Police chief Chad Liske said that as far as the city, the case was closed with the ticket being issued. He said the family didn’t like the resolution on that.

According to Woebbeking, the sheriff’s department cannot just relook into city cases because people didn’t like the resolution the police department reached.

If the county did take it over, Woebbeking said they would have to start from scratch to see if there was a violation of Chapter 54 rather than just relying on the police department’s reports.

Even if the county had taken over the case, Woebbeking cautioned it would not be an automatic noting that the county would need to do things right. He said they probably could have taken the dog, but that within a day it would have been returned to its owners.

He said there are hoops they have to jump through. “Even the dog owner has rights,” he said.

Woebbeking said he did not have a problem if Chief Liske wanted to ask the sheriff’s department to reopen the case. “I don’t have a problem with that whatsoever,” Woebbeking said.

Liske noted that the city case was done and that these are also residents of the county. Committee member Lori Floyd, a former state patrol officer, agreed and noted that it is a jurisdiction issue. However, she noted that the city of Medford is in Taylor County and the sheriff’s department has the authority to investigate the county ordinance.

She said there were residents having serious issues because nothing was being done. “Something needs to be done to help them,” she said.

Rosemeyer called on Liske to send the email to Woebbeking formally asking the sheriff’s department to take it over. “We just need to work together and make it happen,” she said.

Adding a wrinkle, according to Herrell, who has gotten growing support for a petition to have the dog euthanized, the dog has been relocated to another community.

Woebbeking noted that if the dog was gone, the problem is resolved.

Herrell said she was concerned about the dog potentially attacking someone else. “My problem is the dog is in another city. Who is the next victim going to be?” she asked. Woebbeking added that if they want his department to investigate it they will. However he cautioned it is a slippery slope to go down and could be problematic. “When the county makes a business of redoing city cases, it will be problematic for the people in this room,” Woebbeking said addressing committee members.

Chaffee said both the city and the county need to do better so that other children don’t get hurt.

Liske said there shouldn’t need to be a reinvestigation, since it would be an investigation by the sheriff’s department on their own ordinance.

“I think we have a plan to move forward,” Rosemeyer said of a planned meeting between the police, sheriff’s department, city attorney and others to see how it can be handled in the future.

As far as the fate of the dog, having it removed from the community is remedy in the county ordinance. However committee member Chuck Zenner said he felt it was the county’s obligation to notify the community where the dog moved to of the incident. “I would really feel badly that we didn’t,” he said.

Rib Lake police quote

Providing sheriff department coverage in place of the village of Rib Lake having its own police department would cost village taxpayers between about $15,000 and $24,000 per year.

Woebbeking said he was approached by the village of Rib Lake asking him to give the village quotes on what it would be for the county to provide additional law enforcement coverage for the village in place of the current police officer.

Woebbeking said he based his estimates looking at wages only and not dealing with what would happen to the Rib Lake police car or any items. He said they would need to get ironed out if they wanted to go farther with it.

Woebbeking said he prepared three options. The first would be for 10 hours of patrols on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights this would have a cost of about $14,596 per year. Bumping it up to 15 hours of coverage would raise the price to abut $19,500 per years and for 25 hours a week of additional patrols it would be $24,327 a year. Woebbeking said he built the estimates of the approximately $81,000 a year of the total burden cost of a deputy with wages and benefits.

“I am not advocating or asking the community to do this” Woebbeking said, noting he was just asked for information and it would be up to Rib Lake how they want to proceed.

In other business, board members:

 Received word that the county’s contracted health provider for the jail could jump up from $68,000 per year to $300,000 and that they want to provide their own jail nurse. Woebbeking said he is working with them to continue to allow the county’s nurse to work with them.

 Discussed the report of the K9 hours. Taylor County does not currently have a K9 officer. After the handler took a job with a different agency, Woebbeking said he made the decision to sell the dog to that agency rather than go through the time and expense of having the dog retrained to a different handler. This would have been the third handler for the dog. The cost of retraining would have been about $8,000 with the cost of a new dog at around $15,000. Woebbeking said they are currently about $5,000 to $6,000 short of money needed to purchase a new dog and that he will try to find it with savings elsewhere in the budget.

 Discussed a proposed vehicle use policy for sheriff’s department vehicles. The policy was developed by the county’s attorney. Woebbeking said that while he did have any problem with the policy some things didn’t apply to them. He also noted they have an existing squad car usage policy. Woebbeking noted that while the county has the right to control the vehicles, there are a lot of statutes that cover the authority of the sheriff. Committee member Ray Soper suggested they look at the existing document and see where it needed to be changed. “I think we can easily adopt it and tweak it to our needs,” Woebbeking said. No action was taken on the proposed policy change.

e have never been asked to take over the investigation,” — Sheriff Larry Woebbeking about why the sheriff’s department did not take county enforcement action.

“This dog is an active weapon ready to attack again,” — Amber Chaffee of Medford about the dog that attacked her son