Hill City woman decries city's dog pound
By MIKE CORN
HILL CITY -- Melissa Scott couldn't stand the idea of impounded dogs "crying" as they fought off flies, the blistering sun or a lack of water.
So she took matters into her own hands, venturing inside a fenced-in area at the city wastewater plant, spraying down the dogs or holding up blankets and boards to block the sun.
And then she'd call Hill City Police Chief Russ Ingle, with whom she's battled over the plight of impounded dogs for at least two years now, sometimes giving him just 15 minutes to show up and take care of the dogs.
She paid the price recently when she appeared before Hill City Municipal Judge James Deines and pleaded guilty to a trespassing charge -- a culmination of her conflict with the city's police department.
But she didn't go quietly
Instead, with several friends at her side, she laid out the problem to Deines, who gave her wide latitude to speak her mind. Despite that, he pointed out there was little he could do, given his task simply was to preside over the trespassing charge brought against her.
He noted, however, the presence of a Hays Daily News reporter in terms of getting something resolved.
Scott specifically said she didn't climb a chain link fence to gain access.
"I'm 71 years old," she said prior to going to court. "I don't think I'll be climbing no fence."
It all might be a moot question, however, as the city is switching to a lagoon system to treat its wastewater -- a process that requires little oversight.
Because the dog pens are located nearby, they'll be in a spot where few people are around, something unacceptable to Ingle.
That's why Ingle's looking for another location for the pens, a not-so-out-of-place location.
Ingle understands Scott's dog-friendly approach and said there's no ill will toward her.
But, he said the trespassing charge was filed after a series of incidents, and she was caught on a trail cam located on the pens.
Ingle disputes the notion the dogs are mistreated, although he said some come to him in poor shape.
"They have 5-gallon water pans," he said. "If they are out of water, they lay in it or knock it over."
The pens are shaded, with concrete floors and igloo-type dog houses.
He said either he or officers are out at the pound several times a day.
The pens are located at an existing Hill City plant that's frequently visited.
Ingle said the city impounds only 10 to 12 dogs a year.
"We've euthanized one animal this year," he said, adding they've had high marks by inspectors.
Initially, Scott planned to fight the charge against her.
But when she went before Deines, she quickly admitted to trespassing on city property.
Deines let her have her say about conditions at the pound.
"I will pay my fine, and I will stay off the property," Scott said after detailing conditions in the pens.
Deines fined her $50 and $65 in court costs.
"I'll give you a week to pay it," he said after Scott said she didn't have the money with her.
"I really don't feel like I'm finished with this," Scott said after leaving city hall. "I don't feel like I can sit still so long as that is going on."
She planned to approach the city council to help resolve her concerns.