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Dog issue in Humboldt County puts officials in the crosshairs

‘We have become the villains. We haven’t done anything other than try to untangle this whole thing.’

DAKOTA CITY — The story of a dog, taken from Fort Dodge into Humboldt County in what could be described as a rescue, has people taking sides, and that has put Humboldt County officials in the crosshairs.

“We have become the villains,” Bruce Reimers, chairman of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, said Monday. “We haven’t done anything other than try to untangle this whole thing.”

Supervisor David Lee commiserated.

“I’ve had a dozen calls this week, people stopping by the house complaining about this after last week’s meeting. It is getting out of hand.”

According to Humboldt County Animal Control Officer Merri Hansen, some women, who were not identified, removed a boxer/pit bull mix from a residence in Fort Dodge after alleging it was being abused, then brought the dog to the pound being operated in Humboldt County.

Hansen said the owner has since released the dog’s ownership to her.

The dog is at least temporarily living with Jennifer Vought, wife of Tim Vought, a city councilman in Dakota City.

It was originally adopted out of the Almost Home Humane Society of North Central Iowa.

According to Humboldt County Auditor Peggy Rice, Hansen claims Almost Home refuses to take the dog back.

However, Lee said Almost Home has told him it has not refused to take the dog back and has not even been asked to do so.

Either way, according to Humboldt County Attorney Jon Beaty, the county needs a policy with teeth that would guide the manner in which homeless dogs are dealt with in the future.

“I don’t think it ends up just being about this one dog. It’s about the future and how Humboldt County handles what to do with strays,” he said.

One of the problems with the dog is that it has, in some quarters, been deemed a biter.

Hansen refuses to adopt the dog to the girlfriend of the original owner, but she will adopt the dog to Jennifer Vought if she signs a release of liability saying she is aware of the dog’s bite history.

However, it apparently is unclear if Jennifer Vought will adopt the dog.

In the meantime, according to Hansen, Jennifer Vought has started a GoFundMe to assist in caring for the dog and the ensuing legal fees.

Beaty said the dog arrived in Humboldt County injured and is still not in good shape. He expressed concern for the county’s liability, should the dog bite someone and that person chooses to sue.

Also, according to Beaty, the City Council of Dakota City has determined the dog is not vicious.

The county and the city of Humboldt hired Hansen to serve as an animal control officer two years ago. The county rents a building west of Humboldt to house the animals.

However, Humboldt County Sheriff Dean Kruger has said the county needs a larger, and more permanent, shelter.

To that end, a group of citizens have been fundraising, with the goal of establishing an animal shelter within the city of Humboldt.

But the supervisors claim they are not officially connected with the effort, they just made a donation toward it.

“This whole thing, at the very least, has been blown way out of proportion,” Supervisor Erik Underberg said.

He said it was never a clear goal to establish a shelter.

“Humboldt County, and I recently checked with our friends from the city, never intended to start an animal shelter and get into all this business,” he said.

Beaty said the supervisors need to work with the Humboldt City Council on how to go forward. Then a board needs to be set up so the details can be untangled, he said.

He said the animal control officer works for the county.

Hansen is an independent contractor. The agreement between her and the board is that she picks up stray dogs and cats and take them to a shelter.

“That is the only thing she is supposed to do” Beaty said. “If she is adopting out dogs and cats we don’t have any control over that.”