Dispatcher wouldn't send firefighters to dog in icy Wash Park pond, witness says

Next with Kyle Clark. 9NEWS @ 9. 1/8/2016

The dog rescue at Washington Park on Sunday shouldn't have taken as long as it did, says one of the people who tried to get help.

"I call 911 and my first response from them was, 'We don't handle animal calls,'" said Jenny Benz, who was in the park and saw the dog struggling in the water. "And I said, 'Well, I think Fire handles animal calls.'" 

It happened in the afternoon, when other witnesses say Francis the dog took off after some ducks, and went through the ice. Firefighters were able to put a raft on the pond and rescue the dog, which should be okay.

Dog rescued after falling through the ice at Wash Park 

Benz says she asked to be patched through to the fire department, or at least for the department's phone number. And, according to her, she was told she'd have to hang up and call 311 instead.

"I called 311, I waited, I talked to an operator, and they told me to call a park ranger, and that the park ranger would likely not respond, but I could leave them a voice mail," Benz says, explaining she was frustrated and angry to hear this response. 

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"I was scared. I mean, we're watching all this, and I felt like I couldn't do anything to help this poor animal," she says. "I didn't want to be watching a dog die while someone decided who the right person to call would be."

None of this is how it's supposed to work. Denver Police and Denver Fire Department say to call 911 if you see a dog in a similar situation. DPD told Next that this sounds like a dispatcher who didn't know the rules, and the department is going to follow up with dispatchers on Monday.

It was someone else who got ahold of Denver Fire, who came and got ahold of the dog.


A brief thought on this...

Denver rescues pets, because this is a pet-loving city, but also because promising to rescue pets means saving people's lives, by convincing them that help is on the way. That way, people aren't tempted to do it themselves, like the incident that happened at Wash Park just the day before, on Saturday, when dog owners ran in after their pet.

It's crucial that both sides hold up their end of the bargain.

Pet owners need to trust that if they call 911 in these situations, hat rescuers are coming. And dispatchers can't shrug off concerns when it's not just the pet in danger, but anyone who might take action if they're convinced the city doesn't care.

And yes, Denver does have leash laws for dogs. But most dogs, including mine, have gotten off of a leash a time or two before. 

(© 2017 KUSA)


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