Nipomo residents cite owner irresponsibility as root of lost pet cases



Several Nipomo residents have lost pets in the last couple of years with some caught in dangerous road accidents. But while some blame a low law enforcement presence, many community members think the problem is closer to home.

PET PENALTY SLO County Animal Services could fine pet owners who let their escaped animals roam without proper containment penalties ranging from $35 to $400 depending on the frequency of offenses. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • PET PENALTY SLO County Animal Services could fine pet owners who let their escaped animals roam without proper containment penalties ranging from $35 to $400 depending on the frequency of offenses.

"[I] feel like way more pets are killed on residential streets than highway. Very small police presence in Nipomo and essentially no highway patrol mean people aren't afraid to go 50-plus in residential or rural areas. Rural attitudes also mean more people are comfortable allowing their pets to be 'free range,'" Nipomo resident Kate Gracia told New Times via Facebook.

Since 2019, posts about lost dogs, pets injured in accidents—sometimes fatally—have inundated a community group on Facebook called Nipomo Neighbors. The latter half of 2021 saw approximately a dozen calls to help find lost pets ranging from dogs and cats to even a tortoise.

Residents blamed inadequate patrolling by the California Highway Patrol, which has jurisdiction over the unincorporated town.

"It's because a lot of us live near or on roads where the speed limit is 35 mph-plus. Our fence-jumping dog was hit (and died) on Thompson by the high school where the speed limit is 45 mph. At rates higher than 30 mph (give or take) a driver does not have time to avoid an animal in the road. We have no city cops to enforce speeds. High mph roads plus speeding drivers plus no law enforcement equals lots of dead dogs," Nipomo resident Sarah Kurtz Shaver said via Facebook.

But CHP officials disagree.

"We have a priority for beat coverage in that area. We meet that priority daily, and some days we even exceed the number of officers deployed in that area," CHP Officer Miguel Alvarez said. "On top of that, we recently started our motor program, and with that comes specialized enforcement units that target troubled areas in the county as far as traffic-related incidents or issues related to speed and reckless driving. As far as receiving calls for possible DUI drivers or high speed driving in the area, ... they go to those locations as soon as practical."

Alvarez added that tracking traffic collisions where a pet and a vehicle come into contact is difficult because of a lack of a substantial number of such accident reports.

But community members think owner irresponsibility is the real root of the problem. Most pets get lost because of the careless containment of animals on private property.

"I lived in Nipomo for 21 years with three dogs and they got out once, and that was a new rescue I got who went under my front fence. Accommodations were made and they never got out. It's pet owners who don't care or don't secure their property, or the dog is left in the yard with no interaction with the family and it's getting out for attention," resident Sharlene Hinshaw said.

Not adhering to pet containment regualtions can result in penalties, according to the San Luis Obispo County Leash Law, which requires dogs to be leashed or secured in a yard with proper fencing and boundaries.

Eric Anderson, the manager of SLO County Animal Services, told New Times that while Nipomo's lost pet reports to his department haven't seen an uptick, owners can receive citations for their roaming dogs under the leash law.

"If the officer picks up an animal and returns it right away, and the dog is licensed and altered, the minimum might be $35. It could be $300 to $400 for animals that are picked up repetitively," he said.

He advised pet owners to put collars with identification tags on their dogs that bear their contact information for speedy reunification. Anderson recommended engaging pets with physical activity as well to work off pent-up energy.

"People [should] have their dogs spayed and neutered so that if they do get out they're not necessarily prone to reproducing and increasing unwanted litters. Dogs who are altered or neutered have a lesser tendency to want to try to escape," he said. Δ


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