Dogs-at-large: professionals advise preventative measures

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A spate of dogs running loose in December to early January inspires professionals to reach out


By Steve Van Kooten


At the Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter two beagles, Betty and Barney, played on the couch and jockeyed with each other for a volunteer’s attention. Betty, a petite beagle with a narrow snout and large, dark eyes,  placed herself in the woman’s lap and pushed her head against the volunteer’s hand. Barney, with his muscular forelegs and bright amber eyes, squeezed between them to usurp the prime real estate.

Barney and Betty were found together in Soldiers Grove, WI, in December. After a few days on Tracy Jacobus’ property, Crisse Reynolds, Crawford County’s Humane Officer, relocated the dogs to a safe place.

“They could’ve gone home if they wanted, but they hung around,” Reynolds said.

It’s wasn’t an unusual situation for Reynolds, who has provided animal control services to every corner of the county outside Prairie du Chien since 2014. Prairie du Chien’s animal control is handled through the city’s Police Department.

“I still run into people after ten years who don’t know we have an animal control section of the Sheriff’s Department,” Reynolds said. Unlike many other Wisconsin counties, who have a Sheriff’s deputy or other workers cross-trained as a humane officer, Reynolds acts strictly as a human officer; her time and attention aren’t divided between other duties and animal cases. “So the best thing you can do when you lose your dog is call me and tell me right away. I’m here to connect animals and owners to get those animals back home.”

She credited Sheriff Dale McCullick for the move. 

“He decided he wanted somebody designated so you don’t have to put dogs in the back of a squad car where people go,” Reynolds said. “Being a rural area, the volume of calls related to animal welfare can be heavy. Having an Animal Control Officer within the department frees up the deputies to handle other law enforcement matters.” 

In her tenure with the county she has delivered puppies in garages, investigated animal abuse cases and even scraped carcasses off the road. She also has worked with owners who need to surrender their pets and used her resources to assist in re-homing animals.

With Betty and Barney, Reynolds smiled and said, “Hounds and beagles tend to run off.” 

Although there had been an uptick in dogs-at-large reported through the county Facebook page, Reynolds stated the numbers fluctuated all the time; a week may go by without one dog running around followed by three weeks with a dog roaming every day. “There are many cases people may not hear about since I don’t need to post them. We have a couple of repeat offenders who like to go shopping alone in Tractor Supply or go on a walk-a-bout to welcome folks to their neighborhood. I know the dogs and the owners.”



With local adoptions down, space in animal shelters was at a premium when Betty and Barney were found. Reynolds managed to find a foster home until spots opened up at the Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter, in Prairie du Chien.

When animals come to a shelter there is a required five day holding period where the shelter cares for the animal but cannot alter them with spay/neutering or other services. Rivers and Bluffs has a seven day hold with limited provisions to give animals vaccinations for kennel cough. The shelter staff also make social media posts to inform the community and, hopefully, locate the owner.

“We’re just holding them for the first seven days usually,” Bre Bolt, Manager of the Rivers and Bluffs shelter, said. While the animals aren’t “altered” during that time, they are fed and given water and exercise just as any other shelter animal. “We care for them like they’re ours already.”

“There’s an absolute need for brick and mortar shelters,” Reynolds said, who has coordinated foster homes for animals and worked with foster-based shelters like Ridgetop Rescue in Wauzeka. She stated dependable havens for animals with nowhere else to go were important for the community. Bolt noted the Prairie shelter has used foster services as well and can offer a foster-to-adoption program where a potential owner can home an animal for two weeks before committing to an adoption.


Precautionary Measures

Both Reynolds and Bolt detailed a list of precautions and resources pet owners—especially dog owners—can utilize when their animals have been lost or become at large. The most important was to give pets proper identification.

“Just get an ID for the dog,” Bolt said. Tags and a collar with clear name and contact information have led to animals being returned to their homes rather than to a shelter. Bolt also stated a “top of the line” collar wasn’t necessary; any collar with the correct information is sufficient.

Owners should also know where the local shelters are located and have contact information for both animal control and sheltering services.

A microchip was another possibility, especially for dogs that needed more than just a collar.

“If your dog is a Houdini and gets out of his collar or gets out easily because it’s a farm dog, microchipping is a possibility,” Bolt said.

A microchip is an information device implanted under a dog’s skin that has a code tied to contact information for the pet’s owners. Shelters have scanners to read the code and use with an online database. A microchip service is typically offered by veterinarian offices.

Microchips aren’t a full-proof system, though. They’re expensive and ineffective if the owner doesn’t keep the information updated.

“It’s old phone numbers that don’t exist or somebody’s given the dog to a friend,” Reynolds said. “If the information is not kept up to date, it’s not all that useful.”

“Sometimes the chips aren’t registered or the information is old, so we still post animals to Facebook,” Bolt said. She added that chips can migrate, so shelters staff have to be cognizant to scan a dog’s entire body. There’s other misconceptions about microchip capabilities as well. “A lot of people think microchips track your dogs, which they don’t.”

There are many private enterprises that offer microchip services—some of which also offer tracking collars—for variable fees. Reynolds stated there are some companies that have additional transactions to modify information or submit changes and others that allow those services for free. 


Contact Information

After a few weeks at the shelter, Betty and Barney have been able to acclimate to their surroundings. Barney had a meet-and-greet with a family; unfortunately, he did not get adopted.

While the duo ran around the shelter to soak in the attention from the volunteers, Betty had a noticeable limp. Bolt noted she would need corrective surgery. The shelter staff hoped the pair, along with the other dogs at the shelter, would find their “forever home” sooner than later.

Crisse Reynolds, Crawford County Humane Officer, can be reached at 608-306-6253.

The Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter, located at 460 Cliffwood Drive in Prairie du Chien, can be reached at 608-380-1559.

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