By KAYLEE OSOWSKI
The City of Soldotna and a volunteer rescue group have tried to capture a feral dog living in Soldotna. Both have not succeeded.
The rescue group contacted an out-of-state veterinarian to dart the dog, known as Freedom, with non-lethal chemicals, but the city won’t allow the vet to take that action. An online petition has been started to “help rescue Freedom.”
The petition, managed through the website change.org, claims Soldotna Chief of Police Peter Mlynarik has “forbidden the safe and human rescue of a shy husky dog.” The petitions reached more than 1,500 supporters as of Thursday afternoon. The goal is 5,000 signatures.
According to the webpage information for the petition, volunteers from Mojo’s Hope, Red Shed Racing and Straw for Dogs reached out to a California veterinarian who is an “expert in chemical capture.” Scott Amsel agreed to come to Soldotna to “save Freedom” at the volunteers’ expense.
At a Sept. 11 Soldotna City Council meeting, Mlynarik said he doesn’t know what kind of chemicals the vet was planning to use, and, to work as a vet in Alaska, Amsel must be licensed by the state.
Mlynarik said animal control has tried different non-lethal options to capture the dog.
“Our first thing isn’t to go out and try to destroy (the dog),” Mlynarik said.
Soldotna Animal Control Officer Marianne Clark said she has tried to follow the dog, but, being a feral animal, Freedom just runs away. She said a trap is the safest option for both the dog and residents, so that has been Animal Control’s method for capturing her. Clark said, as an Animal Control Officer, she doesn’t carry a weapon and doesn’t have the equipment to put Freedom down on the streets.
Clark said the dog used to avoid people, but she has heard Freedom has been approaching and barking at people.
“That just started,” she said. “(That behavior is) a major concern.”
At the Sept. 11 meeting, Dixson said the city would not normally spend “a lot of time” searching for a feral dog, but the dog has been acting more aggressive lately toward some residents and parents are concerned for their kids’ safety.
“Every effort will be made to capture this dog without shooting it,” Dixson said. “However, if it is in a situation where it is displaying aggressive behavior, we’re going to take it out.”
Jill Garnet, of Red Shed Racing in Kasilof, has obtained paperwork for the dog from its previous owner, and she had claimed legal ownership of Freedom. Once the dog is captured, she will be placed in a secure location, Garnet said. Garnet, along with her team of rescue volunteers, have tried to capture the dog for the past five months using a variety of live traps and a custom-made pen. The group tried netting her as well.
The group realized it needed to explore more options after multiple failed attempts to capture Freedom. Garnet said after communicating with Soldotna Animal Control, the team contacted Amsel.
“He has darted feral dogs to a great number. … He knows the exact drugs and dosages to use,” she said.
The rescue group told Animal Control about Amsel coming up to dart the dog, Garnet said. Five days before his arrival, Mlynarik prohibited the darting, according to the webpage.
The group has done hundreds of hours of surveillance, has a team ready and has an action plan, if Amsel is allowed to come to Soldotna and dart the dog. Garnet said.
“(The rescue group) agrees (Freedom) needs to come off the street and needs a better environment,” Garnet said.
Sen. Peter Micchiche said public safety is always the police department’s first concern, and, with aggressive dogs, the department has to take action to keep residents safe, “if things go south.”
However, he observed the dog with some of the rescue volunteers and, based on his “personal evaluation on the dog’s demeanor,” he thinks the canine can be socialized. He rescued a feral dog 20 years ago that became the family dog.
“Good dogs deserve a chance. … I certainly hope that this ends up being a happy ending for this particular dog,” he said.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at email@example.com.