Dog feud embroils fire station - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Posted: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 9:07 am, Fri Feb 8, 2013.

Sounds like a "dog-gone" problem.

A group of Brownsville firefighters filed a police report against the fire chief accusing him of "taking" their puppy on Tuesday afternoon, Brownsville Firefighters Association President Marco Longoria said Wednesday.

After the animal was taken by Fire Chief Lenny Perez to the animal shelter, Longoria called Brownsville police to document the issue, stating that Perez had no right to take the female puppy since it belonged to the Station 6 firefighters and not to the city.

Police spokesman Sgt. Jimmy Manrrique confirmed there was an "investigation-theft" report filed by Longoria accusing Perez of taking the dog and that the case was under investigation.

The puppy, named Chief, was adopted by firefighters approximately two months ago when firefighters came across the dehydrated and malnourished stray animal during diving exercises at a resaca and nursed it to health, Longoria said.

Since then, firefighters and Perez have been involved in a tug of war as to the fate of the animal.

Stating that an animal at a station is a safety and a liability issue, Perez ordered the dog removed from the station; however, the firefighters refused to take the dog away.

The fire chief picked up the puppy from the station Tuesday afternoon and dropped it off at the animal shelter, because there were some questions about the animal's immunization record and keeping the animal at the station was in violation of Perez's instructions, said Assistant City Manager Jeff Johnston.

"We encourage pet ownership," Johnston said. "We encourage firefighters and the public in general to adopt pets and keep them at home. ... This (dog at a station) is not authorized use of fire department property."

City Commissioner Edward Camarillo is attempting to mediate the dispute.

"My goal is to find a middle ground," Camarillo said. "There is no policy that states they can or can't have a dog at a fire station. ... I don't want the dog to be harmed and at the same time I want the city to be safe and sound. If we can get the dog the missing immunizations and have the firefighters some up with a liability clause where they assume responsibility of the dog, hopefully we can get the dog to stay at the station again."

Having a dog at a fire station that is open to the public can pose some safety and liability issues, Perez said.

"We have children who come visit regularly and take them on tours," Perez said. "One of the kids can pull the dog's ear or do something and the dog can bite him. That's a liability. ... The dog runs around the station. It can get hit by one of the fire trucks."

Longoria said the 3-month-old, mixed breed puppy is well trained and whenever firefighters went out on a call it would automatically get in its kennel without having to be told.

During its stay at the animal shelter, the puppy received the missing vaccinations that it hadn't received because of its young age and because the dog had not recovered from a bout of flu, the firefighter said.

"She just recuperated from the flu. We took turns taking care of her," Longoria said. "Now, she was able to complete her immunizations."

The food, medical bills and other costs associated with the puppy have been covered by the firefighters personal funds and by Brownsville PAWS, an animal rights and rescue group, said PAWS spokesman Edgar Treviño.

"When we heard that these firefighters had saved a stray puppy, we jumped on board to do whatever we could to help," Treviño said.

According to other fire chiefs, Brownsville is believed to be the first fire department to have such a dog-related issue in the Valley.

McAllen Fire Chief Roy Rubio said his department hasn't had a dog in its fire stations as far back as he can remember, nor do they plan to allow it.

"I'm not aware of any policy for or against it," Rubio said. "It's never been an issue here."

In Harlingen, firefighters are familiar with stray dogs visiting firehouses; however, firefighters have never adopted one, said Harlingen Assistant Fire Chief Cirilo Rodriguez.

"We don't have dogs at the stations," Rodriguez said. " We don't have a policy or anything dealing with it. If we did we would have to come up with a procedure to deal with the liability issues."

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