NEWFANE -- Serving as a town Selectboard member comes with many responsibilities.
But it's a fair bet that Newfane's board members didn't expect to be rounding up loose dogs or handling other animal complaints. That's the position they've found themselves in, however, as the town has been without an animal-control officer for most of this year.
"Without the animal control officer, at the moment, we're it," Selectboard member Chris Druke said.
While there are not frequent requests for animal control in Newfane, the lack of an officer was highlighted by a couple of recent calls regarding dogs. In one case, town officials responded to a complaint about a loose dog and ended up transporting the pooch home to Marlboro.
There have been no problems, but the situation raises concerns for Selectboard Chairman Gary Katz.
"We don't need any members of the Selectboard getting bitten," Katz said, later adding that, in the case of the Marlboro pet, "I'm not sure that's something we should get involved with."
Druke and Selectboard member Gloria Cristelli said the town has a legal obligation to respond to such complaints. While a call ultimately may not amount to much, "I don't think we can presuppose what the issue is," Druke said.
The lack of a trained and equipped animal-control officer means Selectboard members technically are on call for the time being. It is not, Katz observed, "a particularly effective way to handle the issue" -- particularly when animal-control issues demand a quick solution.
"It's not completely unlikely that you'd call all five of the Selectboard members and no one would be available at a given moment," he said.
Officials discussed several possible solutions, including asking the Windham County Sheriff's Department for assistance, as the town already has a supplemental law-enforcement contract with that agency.
It seems more likely that town administrators will again look within Newfane for someone willing to take on the animal-control title, though it is not clear how successful such a search will be.
Katz noted that "we don't have a volunteer to be animal control officer, and the likelihood of getting one is remote."
Officials also talked about soliciting help from nearby towns, since Newfane's animal-control officer is not required to be a Newfane resident. Given the need for a relatively rapid response, though, Cristelli urged officials to "consider the distance."
No matter what the solution, Druke said, "there are issues here that we need some help with."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.