Sometimes it is tough to decide who would benefit most from obedience classes the county's countless canine pets, or their owners.

This afternoon, Wed., July 16, Summit County Council members will return to a nagging issue, one that has plagued their predecessors for decades animal control.

At 3:30 p.m., at the county courthouse in Coalville, the council is scheduled to discuss potential amendments to the county's existing animal control ordinances and at 6:30 p.m. will accept public input. We are hoping that everyone will keep the barking and growling to a minimum.

A recently appointed task force has drawn up a list of proposed changes highlighted by an annual off-leash dog tag that would allow owners to release their dogs in approved off-leash areas. That tag could be revoked, however, if the animal is aggressive or not under the owner's voice control.

Frankly, the special off-leash designation sounds like something that might work in a perfect world but has little chance of being enforced in the rough and tumble real world of Summit County's sprawling trails and neighborhoods.

The task force's most cogent observation, however, is that the animal control department is woefully understaffed with just five full-time employees to cover a population of more than 35,000 residents and their untold number of pets.

Dog owners are already required to license their dogs. And animal control officers are stretched thin trying to staff the shelter in Wanship while also responding to nuisance calls. There is little time for randomly spot-checking whether dog owners have their dogs on leashes or under voice control in neighborhoods or on the community's prized, 350+ miles of hiking and biking trails.

The most effective way to encourage pet owners to control their animals is to step up enforcement of existing rules. And the only way to do that is to allocate funds to increase the animal control department's staff.

Adding another level of complexity to the county's largely ignored licensing requirements will not encourage compliance by unruly pets and their owners but additional enforcement of the basic tenets of pet ownership would.

There is, of course, no substitute for personal responsibility and common sense. But fair and rigorous responses of existing animal control rules would go a long way toward taming the beast.