By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
Amanda Waldron was taking her daughter and friend to feed their livestock near the Casper Events Center early Monday morning when she saw a dark pickup truck with Nebraska license plates pull to the side of the empty road, open his door and let a skinny, medium-sized dog with a red collar jump out.
The dog took off running across the field but the driver, an older man with gray hair and glasses, stayed put.
Waldron drove her vehicle up to the truck and asked the man if he needed help retrieving his dog. He declined, explaining he was simply leaving her.
Waldron asked for clarification. Like dumping her?
“Yeah, so what?” Waldron recalled the man saying. “You want to buy her?”
Waldron told the man she would buy the dog if it meant keeping her safe. Then she asked him if he knew that abandoning dogs was against the law — a misdemeanor in Wyoming.
That was when he told her to mind her own business and fled in his vehicle, driving on the wrong side of the road to get away.
As a souvenir of the meeting, though, Waldron was able to get a photo of the man’s license plate, which she turned over to police.
Waldron and her daughter and friend stayed and looked for the dog for about an hour, but the dog wouldn’t come to them and was too hard to track in the dark.
What Waldron saw was the rarely witnessed abandoning of a pet that results varying levels of problems with stray pets in Wyoming communities.
What surprised Shannon Sanderson, animal control officer for the Riverton Police Department, about Waldron’s experience wasn’t that the dog involved was abandoned, but that Waldron saw it happen.
Sanderson saw Waldron’s post about the incident on social media and was shocked that she was actually on hand to see the man ditch the dog.
In Sanderson’s experience, that never happens, which makes it hard to guess how many dogs are abandoned in Wyoming. However, she said given the number of stray dogs she rounds up every day, it is clear that abandonment is happening.
“We have a terrible problem on the (Wind River Indian Reservation) of dogs being dumped,” she said.
She didn’t have exact numbers off the top of her head, but Sanderson estimated she has rounded up a couple of dozen dogs – if not more – in the past six months alone.
“There’s too many,” she said, “and you don’t know if someone is abandoning them unless you caught them in the act. People aren’t getting caught, but we have a ton of strays.”
When a dog or other animal is picked up, Sanderson takes it to the Paws for Life Animal Shelter where the animal’s picture is posted for five days. If no one claims the animal by then it is put up for adoption.
Most of the dogs Sanderson picks up are not reclaimed by their owners but are instead adopted out.
In Gillette, animal control officers do not typically have a problem with stray dogs running in the streets, though they do take custody of unwanted animals turned in by their owners, according to Gillette Animal Control Officer Teresa Mills.
Last year, the department received 190 unwanted cats and dogs. The year before, it was 225. For the most part, Mills said people surrender their animals because they are moving and can’t take the pet.
More Than 17,000
According to Best Friends, a national animal sanctuary nonprofit organization, Wyoming shelters reported taking in 17,044 cats and dogs in 2021. It’s not clear how many of those were abandoned or left by their owners.
Cheyenne has a bigger problem with cats being abandoned rather than dogs, said Heidi Teasley, animal control dispatcher for Cheyenne Animal Control.
Like others in her position, Teasley said there’s no way to know how many of the strays they find were willingly deserted by owners.
“It’s really hard to tell because people will call and say that they think (an animal has) been abandoned, but it doesn’t seem to be,” she said, noting that she’s talked to several police officers who said they didn’t consider dogs being willingly released by owners a problem.
More often, police capture runaways escaping through fence gates, particularly on windy days.
“It’s more common with cats,” she said. “People will move and leave their cats.”
Regardless of the animal, Teasley agreed that catching someone in the act is very rare.
“You never see that,” she said.