Fillmore dog owners whose pets have taken a hike can find out in a quick trip to City Hall if the truant canine is in the hands of Ventura County Animal Regulation.
Since 1983, animal regulation officers who pick up an animal in Fillmore have snapped a Polaroid picture for display in the lobby of City Hall on Sespe Avenue. The practice--exclusive to Fillmore--was begun at the request of former Fillmore Mayor Ernie Morales, because the city is so far from the county's animal shelter in Camarillo, Animal Regulation Director Kathy Jenks said.
Initially, the pet portrait gallery resulted in an increased number of dogs and cats being adopted or reclaimed from the animal shelter by Fillmore residents, Jenks said. But in recent years, fewer animals have been taken from the shelter to Fillmore homes. Jenks said people may be forgetting to check with City Hall, or new residents may be unaware of the service.
In 1990, 168 dogs and 183 cats were taken to the shelter from Fillmore--not an unusual number for a city of 12,000, Jenks said.
"But some people in rural areas like Fillmore think it's OK for the dog to run loose. By the time they realize the animal is missing and find time to come to the shelter to look, it may be too late," Jenks said.
Unclaimed dogs are available for public adoption after five days at the shelter, and they may be euthanized on the seventh day, although Jenks said animals that seem to be good candidates for adoption may be held longer. Cats are seldom kept longer than five days.
If the animal is wearing a license, shelter workers try to contact the owner by telephone. But if the pet has no tags, visual identification by the owner works best, Jenks said.
"You and I can look at the same mixed-breed dog and come up with two different descriptions of what that mix is," Jenks said. "If you call up and say you lost a shepherd mix, we have to say, 'We've got seven mixed shepherds you can choose from. You'd better come down to the shelter and take a look.' "