|Whether it be someone who wanders into the winter forest for a hike or a stranded snowmobiler, the rescue of people in a winter climate is a challenging situation. Last week the Carbon County Commission approved the purchase of a new type of snow cat to act as a snow ambulance in just such a crisis.|
The fate of animals at the county shelter often hangs in the balance due to the number of creatures picked up or brought into the facility.
But the canines, felines and assorted animal will have a little more assistance since the Carbon County Commission agreed to set up an advisory board to work with the shelter during a regularly scheduled meeting last Wednesday.
"It is a good idea to have a board like this to check on the operations at the shelter," said County Commissioner Mike Milovich during the meeting.
The shelter recently lost it's director of nearly a decade and animal rights activists in the county are concerned about who will replace her and what kind of policies will be pursued concerning animal care and euthanasia.
"We just don't want things to go backwards," said Brenda Pappas a well known cat lover in the community. "Part of that has to do with who is hired to take the leadership position, but part is also oversight of what is going on there as well."
Pappas pointed out that in the early 1990s animal adoption rates at the shelter were low. But things changed from June 1994 through January 1995 and more than 300 dogs and 170 cats were adopted out of the facility.
"The shelter also took in $14,000 because of those adoptions during that time," she said. "We just want the animals to be treated well and to not be destroyed unless absolutely necessary."
Commissioner Bill Krompel indicated that, when he first took a seat on Carbon government, there were problems with the shelter because the public did not want to pay the cost of having enough officers to control the animal situation in the county.
"Prior to 1987, the shelter had six full-time animal officers," explained Krompel. "But when things got tight and the public said it was not interested in a tax increase, five of the six full- time officers were let go. At that point, the humane society stepped in and helped out a great deal."
When the shelter puts animals down, Pappas indicated that the county is not following state law on the matter.
"In fact, I believe if you look at the state law and the county code they almost conflict with each other on this matter," she stated.
It was then that Milovich suggested that the idea the animal rights group had brought in about an advisory board was a good idea.
"That way we can get a new director hired and look over these ordinances to see what needs to be fixed," he said. "We haven't looked at those laws for a very long time."
Commissioner Steve Burge said he has been very concerned about the situation at the shelter and in fact "had a meeting out there today and I found the shelter to be very clean." He also said that veterinarian Dr. Boyd Thayne had been at the shelter that day as well and said the doctor was concerned about the cat house and viruses that seem to be present in the animals there.
"There may be illness emanating from there because there have been reports of many adopted animals dying only a few weeks after they left the shelter," said Burge.
Dennis Dooley, the personnel director for the county, said that the hiring of a new director for the shelter will soon be completed. In fact the county will begin interviewing applicants the end of next week.
In another matter the commission also approved the extension of the county's contract with the Carbon County Recreation and Transportation Special Service District $130,000 so a specialized snow cat can be bought for rescue services in the county.
The county already has a newer snow cat that the electronics department uses to travel to Star Point and other places where relays and broadcast equipment are located. But it seems just when the cat is needed for emergency rescue work it is out on a job, far away from the emergency.
"We have given the idea of another cat a lot of time and thought," said Frank Pugliese of Carbon County Sheriff's Posse Search and Rescue. "We just have to look at it in the same way we look at other emergency services. Fire fighters don't go to fires with out fire trucks, we shouldn't go into snow rescue situations without a snow cat that can be used as a snow ambulance."
Last year there was an incident of a man with a heart attack in a snowbound remote area of the county and the sheriffs department along with search and rescue were able to get him out in time to save him. But Pugliese said it was touch and go because they had to rely mainly on a snow cats from the state and one from Utah Power and Light to get to the victim because the counties machine was clear across the county being used somewhere else.
Pugliese also said that the unit they intend on buying is not just a snow cat.
"This is a flexible machine," he told the commissioners. "It can go over rocks and work in the mud as well." He said it also had unique steering in that it can turn both the front and rear tracks. Top speed on the unit is about 37 miles per hour.
"I rode up to an emergency in the county's present cat last year and it was much slower than that," said Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova. He pointed out that in many rescue situations time is of the essence and the faster a machine can get to the place where the emergency is located the better.
"Last year we conducted 13 search and rescues and eight of those were in the snow," said Pugliese . "So you can see why we need this. But the availability of a machine to use when we need it is my biggest concern."
Pugliese had gone directly to the CCSSD with the request, but because the Sheriff's posse is a non-profit organization and not an actual part of county government they couldn't give the group the money. By extending the counties contract for the unit, the machine would be purchased by the county and ownership would stay with them.
During the discussion the commissioners bargained with Pugliese who said he did have some money to spend on a machine but not enough to buy it outright. Finally the two sides came to the $130,00 figure with the posse kicking in the rest for the total price of $156,000 for the machine.