Fresno City Hall may have a solution to its animal-control headache -- make the Police Department chase down that dangerous canine bulldog.
With a potential crisis only weeks away, Assistant City Manager Bruce Rudd said he has asked Police Chief Jerry Dyer to devise an animal-control operation based out of police headquarters.
Such a remedy is not a sure thing. But the mere suggestion that a department down 100 sworn officers from a few years ago might also take on cat-herding duties shows the level of City Hall desperation.
"Right now, we're locked and focused on what to do in the next three weeks and the next three months," Rudd said. "This is a real challenge."
Dyer in his 11-plus years as chief never has even hinted that he would like to add the dog pound to his agenda. But, he said, the police are always willing to serve.
"If it comes our way, we'll make it work," Dyer said. "Then we'll see if it's short-term or long-term."
The city and Fresno County have long depended on the Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for animal-control services, many of them state-mandated.
But the SPCA stunned City Hall and the county last spring by triggering a six-month exit clause in its contract.
SPCA officials said they were tired of taking heat for euthanizing the thousands of dogs and cats that Fresnans refused to nurture themselves.
They said they'd had enough of animal activists hounding them to open their private board meetings to the public. They said they wanted to focus on things like education and spaying/neutering.
The city-county response was tepid at first. A joint task force that included animal-rescue groups met most Fridays at City Hall. But progress was slow as the clock ticked.
Rudd in recent weeks had been lobbying the SPCA to stay on the job for an extra three months. The SPCA publicly scotched that idea last month, sending the first real sense of panic through City Hall.
That's when Rudd, deemed the city's Mr. Fix-It even though the SPCA-City Hall tiff originated on the City Council, turned to Dyer for help.
Details on the police proposal are scarce. Dyer said he hasn't had time to "put pen to paper." But he and Rudd have a rough idea of what might replace the SPCA until at least Christmas:
Sworn officers would not be directly involved in animal-control activities. They would continue with their usual law-enforcement activities.
The city would hire a few extra dispatchers for animal-control calls. They would work next to police dispatchers, who often get dangerous-dog, dead-cat calls from the public.
The city would hire six or more animal-control officers. They may come from the ranks of SPCA employees laid off when the city-county money spigot is turned off Oct. 1.
The city would scrounge up a fleet of trucks from among the seldom-used vehicles peppering city storage lots. Line up some camper shells, buy some portable kennels and -- presto! -- those animal-control officers have something workable to drive.
This new animal-control force would have clear but narrow tasks. Sick, injured or dangerous animals are picked up. Strays are left to fate.
The public would be told who to call. A list of animal-rescue groups would be available to callers with unwanted but healthy animals.
A couple of police lieutenants would add animal-control administration to their responsibilities.
Rudd said animal control is just half of the challenge. Animal shelter is the other half. The city doesn't have an animal shelter ready to go. Rudd admits he isn't sure how he will cobble one together in three weeks.