Break-ins plague Josephine County Animal Shelter

MERLIN — In an effort to stem a rash of burglaries to steal confiscated pets, the Josephine County Animal Shelter will install an alarm system and razor wire fencing to ward off intruders.

"We are definitely buttoning up this place as much as we can," said Brad Tally, county animal protection and regulation supervisor.

The move came after the eighth break-in this year happened Wednesday at the shelter at 1420 Brookside Blvd., near the Merlin airport.

A dog owner allegedly jumped a fence surrounding the shelter and broke a lock to reclaim two young pit bulls without having to pay fees and fines, Tally said.

The pit bulls had been confiscated because they did not have a license, required by state law, and were running loose, Tally said. The case remains under investigation, said county Sheriff Gil Gilbertson.

Josephine County commissioners on Friday approved spending about $19,700 to augment security and upgrade the shelter building to accommodate the security enhancements. That included $13,000 to revamp the building's electrical system, replace dilapidated roofing and replace doors.

About $4,300 will purchase razor wire for the fences around the shelter.

Another $2,400 will go toward a motion-sensitive alarm system that will notify police of intruders and sound a siren.

The shelter also will put about $1,500 in donations toward the alarm system. Detect All Security Systems and Caveman Fence, both out of Grants Pass, will donate the labor for installation of the new systems.

The commissioners denied an additional request for $4,500 to buy a surveillance system.

"We do think the razor wire and alarm system will be sufficient," said Belle Shepherd, county public health director who oversees animal control. "This is our first step. It's also the fastest step and if we need to look at cameras in the future we certainly will. The commissioners made that clear."

Out of the eight break-ins that have occurred at the shelter so far this year, seven of them involved people who wanted to retrieve pets without paying fees and fines, Tally said.

The most stunning of the burglaries ended in the beating death of four puppies and the return of seven other dogs stolen from the shelter Aug. 22. Harley Davidson Hopkins, 22, who thought his chow mix had been held at the shelter, Jacob A. Goodboe, 16, and Holly Hopkins, 16, have been charged in the burglary.

"It seems that it has escalated a little bit this year," Shepherd said. "I think it probably has to do with economic issues. Whereas before people could afford $100 to $150, now they are not able to. People walk away and say, 'I can't afford that.' "

An annual dog license costs $18 if the animal is spayed or neutered, and $34 if it's unaltered.

A stay in the pound costs $45 for an intake fee, $25 per day and any additional fines, Tally said.

Overall crime in the county has spiked in the last year, and sheriff's patrols have been scaled back to a minimum after losses in federal funding.

Anyone with information about the Wednesday burglary is asked to call the sheriff's department 541-474-5123.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or e-mail

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