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VALLEY FOCUS | Valleywide

Attack Spurs Study Into New Kennel Rules

January 22, 1998|SYLVIA L. OLIANDE

In response to an early morning dog attack that severely injured an animal regulation employee last November, the City Council agreed Wednesday to study new policies that would give swing and graveyard employees better protection when working in city kennels.

City officials are expected to review the financial impact of requiring that at least two people work the swing and graveyard shifts at each of the six shelters, and equip the workers with shoulder-mounted, two-way radios to summon help in an emergency.

"We have safety precautions, but we have experienced animal handlers who feel they are in control of the situation," said Sharon Morris, acting general manager of the animal regulation department.

"Sometimes they are not as cautious as they would be because they're experts," she said.

That may have been the situation in which an East Valley shelter worker found herself last year, Morris said.

Morris said the employee was making her regular rounds on the graveyard shift, cleaning cages and feeding the animals before the shelter's 8 a.m. opening, when a chow attacked and mauled her.

Morris said the animal-care technician, who had worked with the chow before without incident, was confident she was safe despite the fact that the dog had been separated from others because it was considered dangerous.

As a result of the attack--from which the employee is still recovering--the department implemented several regulations designed to prevent a similar incident.

The new regulations require that workers not be allowed to enter cages marked with warnings unless another employee is nearby and that they carry two-way radios and have access to cellular phones while in the kennels.

Ultimately, department officials say they hope to make some physical changes at the shelters to increase safety, including improving lighting and installing public address systems and video monitoring cameras at specific locations in the kennels.

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