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Questions still remain from dog attack

County working to find current location of dog to warn of possible danger
Questions still remain from dog attack
Rib Lake choir member Brady Heiser ended up on the floor during the “Lunch Lady Land” skit performed during the Spring Fling Sing Thing held May 14 at Rib Lake High School. The humorous skit was part of an evening celebrating the musical achievements of the Rib Lake Choir students. See more coverage of the event on page 5. ELIZABETH WILSON/THE STAR NEWS
Questions still remain from dog attack
Rib Lake choir member Brady Heiser ended up on the floor during the “Lunch Lady Land” skit performed during the Spring Fling Sing Thing held May 14 at Rib Lake High School. The humorous skit was part of an evening celebrating the musical achievements of the Rib Lake Choir students. See more coverage of the event on page 5. ELIZABETH WILSON/THE STAR NEWS

Tensions spiked at the May 10 county law enforcement committee meeting over the handling of a February dog bite incident in the city of Medford.

On February 5, eight-year-old Logan Chaffee 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 the animal escaped again and began chasing another youth who was riding a scooter

through the area.

Medford Police responded to the scene and per state requirements the dog was put into quarantine and the owners where issued a ticket for having a dog at large. The city does not have an ordinance regarding vicious animals while the county does. The city cannot write tickets for county code violations. While the city could have sought charges under a state law, there was a question about if this incident rose to the level needed for that.

For weeks after the incident, Logan’s mother Amber and other family members were in contact with law enforcement seeking additional action to be taken, fearing for another dog attack.

After coming to the city council and the county law enforcement committee last month, and having Medford police chief

Chad Liske ask the county to look into the incident, sheriff Larry Woebbeking assigned detective Chad Kowalczk to do an investigation.

At last week’s meeting, Kowalczk summarized his investigation. He said he traced the dog back to Harris County, Texas where it was involved in at least two biting incidents that could be proven. He noted there was also a suspicion of the animal being involved in a fatal dog attack in the area near where it lived, but that a connection was never proven.

He said the animal was placed in a shelter in Texas with at least one of the shelter staff saying it should be euthanized. This did not happen, nor did it go to a rehabilitation shelter before being rehomed, See COUNTY on page 4 instead the dog ended up in Medford through a shelter in Ohio that facilitated the animal’s transfer.

Kowalczk noted that when contacted, the people at the shelter in Ohio knew about the incident in Medford and were reluctant to give any information about it over concerns that the intent of the county was to locate the animal and have it killed.

“She claimed that she just assists in the adoption process,” Kowalczk said, noting the individual distances herself from any direct ties.

Since the attack, the dog’s owners have re-homed it out of the area. Kowalczk described the owners as being reluctant to give out information, only stating they reached out online to the husband and wife and then met with the individual in Eau Claire and that the couple took custody of the dog at that time.

“We don’t know where the dog is,” Woebbeking said, about its current location. He said they might reach out to law enforcement in the community in Minnesota where the previous owner’s parents live and alert them to the possibility of the dog being in the community there.

“We feel it is important to let somebody know,” he said. “It feels to me that the owner has a duty to give you that information,” said committee chair Lynn Rosemeyer “There has to be a better way of tracking these animals,” said committee member Chuck Zenner.

“These people think they are doing good, rescuing animals,” Kowalczk said.

Chaffee said the more she has heard the more concerned she has become about the need to find the dog and warn people of its potential danger.

After Kowalczk gave his report, Woebbeking said it represented investigation work that took a week to do. “The city could have done the same work,” Woebbeking said.

He said this is the difference between relying on a report and doing an investigation. “We can’t rely on the city’s work to do the original charging,” Woebbeking said.

“We have to take it over and do the investigation. It is just not that simple to rely on another department’s report,” Woebbeking said.

Questions were raised about why the county had not investigated it right away. Woebbeking said he had not been asked to take over the case. Chief Deputy Corey Dassow disagreed noting that he had spoken to the sheriff about having being asked about it and telling him that police chief Chad Liske would have no issues with the county looking into it further.

“You told me that it is Chad’s cross to bear,” Dassow said, noting that he had given the sheriff updates on the incident and feedback from the family involved.

Rosemeyer cut off further exchange noting the result is the investigation and going forward from there.

“Let’s all just work together,” said committee member Chuck Zenner, noting that it doesn’t matter who is doing what. He said the city is still part of Taylor County.

“The people who are suffering are a family in Taylor County,” Dassow said.

For now, work is continuing to try to locate the dog so that the authorities in that community are made aware of its past history.

Ambulance concerns

Gilman fire department assistant chief Derek Romig raised concerns about some of the things he and other firefighters are seeing happening with ambulance calls in the Gilman area.

“There is stuff going on that is ridiculous from a firefighter’s point of view,” he said.

He cited a Feb. 27 car accident that occurred on CTH S and Hwy 73 where there was a single person in Gilman to respond to the scene from ambulance and that rather than calling out Thorp, which is 11 miles away, the ambulance from Medford was dispatched. He gave other examples of the ambulance from Gilman being sent to the Rib Lake area to respond to calls and being gone for hours as a result. He said this is raising questions on the west end of the county if they are getting the coverage they are supposed to be. He also noted that there is supposed to be a fully staffed ambulance on the scene of a fire and raised concern about it being available.

“They are valid issues,” Rosemeyer said. Aspirus Emergency services regional director Bob Kirkley explained that they are required by their state agreements and contracts to deploy Taylor County resources first before calling out outside agencies. He also noted that while Thorp is 11 miles away, it is an on-call service and it takes time for people to respond to come from their homes to where the ambulance is located, while Medford has staff at the ambulance garage waiting to respond. In the case of the February crash, he said the Medford ambulance was called out immediately and was already on the road to the scene when the fire department asked for Thorp to be called out.

“We can’t deviate from the response plan,” Kirkley said, noting that if they did so and a complaint was filed with the state there could be issues for the ambulance service and the county.

Romig noted that when there was a crash on CTH O and CTH C recently, Athens ambulance was called out. It was explained that there were three other calls out at that time and the mutual aid was needed.

Ambulance service representatives also noted that in the past few weeks they have worked to implement new procedures to reduce call times by activating crews when a crew is called out and having crews move ambulances toward more centralized locations when covering for different regions of the county.

Ambulance representatives will be going to the fire department to talk with firefighters about the procedures and the decision making process in how calls are made.

In other business, committee members:

 Discussed changing providers for medical services in the county jail. The current providers are saying they will increase the cost to around $280,000 per year while not allowing the county to have its own jail nurse. Woebbeking reported he has looked at alternatives including Achieve Health of Eau Claire which had submitted a favorable price, but could not get medical providers. Woebbeking suggested the county go with Southern Health Partners for a fee of $191,016 per year which would include medical and mental health services. The contract cost also includes the jail nurse being hired to work for the provider rather than for the county. It comes to about a $75,000 difference between the current provider. There was discussion on if this could be done at the committee level or if it needed full county board approval. It was referred to the June 13 finance meeting.

 Approved adding language to the existing vehicle use policy after concerns were raised about how sheriff’s department vehicles were being used. While last month, there was talk of rewriting the entire policy, after further review by the county’s attorney, the recommendation was to add the following section to the existing policy: “The Sheriff and Chief Deputy are authorized unrestricted use of their take-home vehicle, at all times to accomplish effective communications and emergency response. The Sheriff and Chief Deputy are considered on-call at all times. However, this policy is restricted to the standard of “reasonable use.” The county vehicle shall not be used for family vacations, out-of-county travel that is unrelated to direct County business. The purpose of this provision is to avoid unnecessary wear and tear, maintenance (oil changes, etc), and increased mileage on the county-owned vehicle. Further, the gas card/account assigned to the vehicle shall not be for personal use.

 The following sheriff’s department staff members were recognized for their milestone years of service: Kevin Kree 25 years, Aemus Balsis 20 years, Chad Kowalczk 15 years, Liza Barth 15 years, Jesse Turner 10 years, Alyssa Branowitzer 10 years, Rhonda Sackman 5 years and Brittany Hoffman 5 years.

hese people think they are doing good, rescuing animals.” — Sheriff Det. Chad Kowalczk