The relationship between Mono County Staff and Mammoth Dog Teams has now boiled down to lawyers and petitions.
To house his sled dogs, Jim Ouimet of Mammoth Dog Teams, has leased the old Sheriff Substation south of Mammoth from Mono County. Ouimet started renting month to month after a five year lease expired in 2008. Since that time there have been accusations that Ouimet violated terms of the lease by entering and sometimes living inside the building. The county contends that the building is not habitable and that terms of the lease allowed the kennels to operate outside but no one was allowed inside the building.
There had been an earlier dust up over a possible eviction in past weeks and now Therese Hankel, the Attorney for Mammoth Dog Teams, reports that Mono County Animal Control had ordered Ouimet to house the dogs in pens by March 15th. Now, the county has delayed that order pending a Board of Supervisors meeting. According to Hankel, Lisa Schade complained that Ouimet is violating the state prohibition on tethering dogs.
Assistant County Counsel, Stacey Simon explained that the tethering law has been on the books since 2006. Ouimet continued to tether the dogs, but was supposed to seek a legislative change or exemption for sled dogs. In past years the county was supportive of a change in the legislation, Simon reports, adding that it was our understanding that he (Ouimet) would work with other mushers to make changes. Today the law remains as it did in 2006, and when Animal Control received the complaint, the county took action.
Hankel reports that Ouimet cant afford to build pens, but adds that the sled dogs have always been tethered. Hankel cites a study by Cornell University which she says shows that tethering is fine. No other musher puts their dogs in pens because not all of the dogs get along, said Hankel, adding that currently “Ouimet has the dogs specifically organized and tethered for their best behavior.
Simon further explained that Animal Control has not ordered Ouimet to build pens, but says that Ouimet needs to show that he is in compliance with the tethering law which prohibits tethering a dog for, extended periods of time. There may still be room for negotiation. Simon reports that under the law a dog cant be tethered for longer than three hours over a twenty four hour period unless otherwise approved by Animal Control.
Attorney Hankel said that Mr. Ouimet “believes that the tethering law was never intended to apply to working dogs such as his sled dogs and that the language in the statute providing certain exemptions for dogs also applies to his dogs.” In the meantime a petition circulated by Hankel has gathered 160 signatures in support of Mammoth Dog Teams.
At their meeting March 16th, the Mono Supervisors are set to consider whether or not Ouimet can continue to lease this space from the County. A further discussion of long term plans for the old Sheriff substation are also set for discussion.