MILFORD- A viscous dog attack in Matamoras led to an extended discussion at the Pike County Commissioners' meeting Aug. 20, about the need for a dog warden solely designated for Pike County.

MILFORD- A viscous dog attack in Matamoras led to an extended discussion at the Pike County Commissioners' meeting Aug. 20, about the need for a dog warden solely designated for Pike County.
   Present were Ellen Howarth, Supervisor, Department of Agriculture, Dog Law Enforcement, and James Rickert, who is the state Dog Warden for both Pike and Wayne counties. The Mayor of Matamoras, Janet Clark, as well as the two women who were victims of the attack, spoke at the meeting.
     Howarth stressed, "We can only enforce dog laws on the books. At no point in this case does law give us authority to come and remove dogs."
     Fourteen charges were filed by the dog warden in this case; word was received during the meeting that the defendants had just pleaded "not guilty."
     Howarth said that if the magistrate says that the dog is dangerous, the owner has the right to keep the animal if it is kept under compliance. The dog would have to be registered, at a cost of $500; the animal would have to have a microchip implanted. It would have to have to be inoculated. Liability insurance would be required. The owner would have 30 days to comply or the violation would rise to a misdemeanor.
   "We have no authority to just take the dog," Howarth said. The owner, she added, is entitled to Due Process under the law.
   Mayor Janet Clark of Matamoras was in the audience. She said that Pike used to have their own dog warden. Dog problems are serious in Pike. She said that a place is needed to put the animal under quarantine until the dog gets its shots.
    The problem with finding a dog warden only to serve Pike County is the funding, Howarth indicated.
    Rickert reminded that as a state dog warden, they are not first responders. "We don't carry guns," he said. They are here to educate dog owners. He asked- rhetorically- how many dog owners present had their dogs licensed. He noted that license fees pay for the warden, rather than taxes.
    In Pike County there are about 5,000 to 6,000 licensed dogs, he said. Someone with a concern about a neighbor's dog should try and talk to the neighbor; if needed, then talk to the dog warden.
   "We need to focus on pet responsibility," he said.
   Although members of the audience did not like to hear that the owners of a viscous dog could keep the animal in their own home under compliance, Rickert noted that the animal shelters in both Pike and Wayne counties are struggling financially.
   One of the women who was attacked, who said her name was Doris, said that fortunately two young people saved her own dog's life "and probably my life." She added, "It took my dog almost being killed to get this attention."
   Eastern Pike Regional Police responded, she said, relating an officer said they thought the warden would have taken care of the dog after the previous attack.
   Doris stated that she went to the Emergency Room and is now watching for potential rabies.  She said the dog(s) had escaped from a "flimsy screened-in porch," the same porch she added, was there in "the last six incidents."  She added, "I was told taht's where the dogs were being quarintened."
   The PA Department of Health told her, Doris said, that it was up to her and her husband to check on the health of these dogs. "After I got the letter I went to the Emergency Room and asked for rabies meds," she said, not willing to wait and take a risk.
   Speaking to Warden Rickert, Doris said, "You're only one man for two counties... that's not enough... we need funding, a place for quarantine- not in the home of these irresponsible people."
    She said they want to form a committee working with Matamoras Borough to educate the public on leash laws.
   Rickert said that the dog owner had been ticketed previously for other dog incidents but a false name had been given. The Warden said that they can't follow up on all the warrants.
     The state only requires that the dog by kept under control, rather than specifically on a leash. Municipal laws can require a leash. Mayor Clark said that Matamoras has a leash law. Warden Rickert reminded that as state Dog Warden he can only enforce state laws; local police need to enforce local laws, including a leash requirement.
   Clara Bennett of Birchwood Lakes remarked that Warden Rickert "runs ragged"  and is doing the best he can. At her community, she said, they get three to six calls a month about loose dogs, and usually no one can identify the dog. "Jim can't be everywhere at once," she said of the warden.
   Rickert advised that if state laws are not strong enough, you should talk to your legislators. County Solicitor Tom Farley added that legislators could also be asked to fund more funding for more dog wardens.
    A press report on the dog attack has not been issued.