Options Considered For Animal Control In The County
COFFEEVILLE – Discussions about animal control in the county continue after an agreement between the Yalobusha County Supervisors and Second Chance Animal Alliance (SCAA) ended last month.
The problem is funding, as SCAA volunteers have repeatedly requested additional funding after an initial deal was inked in April, 2018, for the county to provide $12,000 annually for the organization to handle animal problems in the county, duties that included responding to reports of stray, neglected or abandoned dogs as well as answering calls with deputies for vicious dogs.
Last September, SCAA requested an increase to $30,000 annually, citing the high number of calls received in the county. That request was identical to SCAA’s original request in 2018 for $30,000 annually, and was rejected by supervisors.
The issue came to a head in December after SCAA submitted an ultimatum to the county requesting additional funding, $42,000 annually, to continue services “as is.” The letter also provided two alternate options, a $1,500 monthly payment to care for seizures by the sheriff’s department that result in citations or court proceedings as well as care for animals that have been injured or are ill and need immediate care. The third option was for a payment of $125 per animal coming in from the county, a number that could be capped by supervisors.
Supervisors opted to stick with the original agreement for $12,000 annually and the final check to SCAA was sent on Dec. 2.
“If they can’t work with what we are able to offer, then we have to look at other options,” Board President Cayce Washington noted during a recessed meeting last Tuesday night at the Coffeeville courthouse in a 45-minute discussion on the matter.
Tuesday’s discussion was triggered by a Facebook post earlier in the day from SCAA reporting that the county decided not to enter into a new contract with SCAA for animal control services. SCAA also reported that they did not get an official response from supervisors on the December request for more money or selecting an alternate option.
“Going forward, please call your supervisor if you need any assistance. We will continue to assist the city with animal control as usual,” the post stated. The post also reiterated that income from the City of Water Valley and the county is used for payroll for SCAA employees, “the backbone of SCAA.”
The consensus by supervisors at last week’s meeting was that the county budget could not accommodate SCAA’s request for additional funding.
“My response is this, this county is responsible for $2 million to get real live people to and from work and school, that is a challenge for us,” Washington said about the funding to replace Gum’s Crossing Bridge. “At any given time we are challenged with mental commitments that we have to support with our local tax dollars, and again that is a human being that needs the help of the county. We also publicly defend people who are in a situation that they can’t help themselves,” Washington said about the cost to hire public defenders for court cases. He also cited the high cost of law enforcement.
“We simply do not have the resources to commit to what they are trying to do. I am for getting rid of nuisance animals and vicious animals, and giving an opportunity to give them a second life if we can get someone to adopt them. But we cannot continue to house animals for months on end and wait for someone to come get them. And if they don’t, they continue to run up vet bills and nurse them back to health,” Washington continued, reiterating his position in earlier meetings where the length of stay for animals at SCAA and the cost of vet bills have been questioned.
SCAA officials have also repeatedly stressed to supervisors in previous meetings that the money from the county is used to pay their part-time workers, and is not used for vet bills or other expenses.
But in November meetings, one problem cited by supervisors was input from their constituents that SCAA was operating at capacity and could not accept additional animals picked up in the county.
“If people want to vote me out of office because I am trying to make a good decision, I am going to stand by my decision,” Washington added during the discussion last Tuesday.
The conversation then shifted to an alternate plan of building a kennel at the sheriff’s department and utilizing inmates to provide care for impounded animals.
District 3 Supervisor Kenny Harmon questioned what type of animal calls the county would answer.
“I am not talking about a dog trying to bite you, it could be somebody’s house dog that got out. Are we going to pick those dogs up if somebody calls us?” Harmon asked.
“I think if we get the call, we have the responsibility to rid that community of that nuisance,” Washington added.
“There is no statute requiring that?” District 5 Supervisor Gaylon Gray asked.
“It’s the sheriff’s responsibility, if the dog doesn’t have a collar or a tag,” Board Attorney Shannon Crow replied.
Harmon then questioned the details of how dogs picked up will be handled, particularly how to handle dogs that are housed 30 days and have not been adopted.
“We will have to develop a policy if we get in this business,” Board Attorney John Crow answered.
“Do we have any choice not to get in this business?” District 4 Supervisor Eddie Harris asked.
“You have a choice not to get into it, the county has never been in it,” Gray answered.
“What about vicious dogs?” Harris asked.
“Our ordinance provides for that,” John Crow answered, referring to the county’s vicious dog ordinance adopted by supervisors in 2012. Crow added that the ordinance requires the owner to properly contain a vicious dog or the sheriff can impound it.
“I think we are wondering more about dogs just wandering around and not vicious dogs,” Shannon Crow noted before citing state statute on the issue.
“It is the duty of the sheriff to kill any dog above the age of three months found wandering at-large on whose neck there is not a collar. However the duty of said officer who finds the dog running at-large is to first keep him for a period five days. If anyone proves himself to be the owner of the dog, he shall pay the sheriff the sum of 50 cents before the dog is delivered to said owner,” Shannon Crow explained. The attorney also explained that the statute was enacted in the 1970s and has not been amended since.
John Crow also noted that the previous administration at the sheriff’s department typically did not respond to vicious dog complaints, citing a staff shortage as the conversation shifted back to handling complaints of vicious dogs.
Harris noted that if the responsibility falls on the sheriff’s department, it doesn’t matter whether manpower is an issue, citing protection is necessary for citizens in the county.
Washington then suggested building five or six kennels behind the county jail.
“We put them on social media saying we picked this dog up at this address and after a period of time we take care of what we have to,” Washington added.
“Are we going to euthanize them?” Gray asked.
“I make a motion we put some kennels at the sheriff’s department, as soon as possible,” Harris said.
“I am on board with that,” Washington said.
“But who is going to pick them up?” John Crow asked.
“The sheriff,” Harris answered.
“Why don’t we look into the cost,” Gray said about adding kennels at the jail.
“There is no good solution… this is going to be an ongoing thing,” Harmon noted. “Whatever we set up, I think it is going to have to be pretty strict.”
John Crow stressed that the county will have to adopt a policy if they get into this business.
“It will deal with how long we keep them and what happens afterwards if nobody adopts that dog,” he continued.
“They will be humanely euthanized, you are going to have to pay a vet,” Gray said.
“I researched it, there is a strategy for euthanizing an animal. It even goes to the caliber of gun that can be used per the size of the animal. You can euthanize them with a firearm. Bullets are cheap. I know that isn’t what the public wants to hear, but we can’t afford to spend $100 on a dog,” Washington said.
“Nobody wants to do it, but you have to balance your interests,” John Crow said.
“It’s a tough job,” Harmon noted.
“We are trying to educate the children, get them to school and take them home. You are trying to keep a health department going. You have to draw a line somewhere,” John Crow said.
“What do we need to do with the dogs?” Harris asked.
“If you get in this business, you are going to have to have a decent shelter for them,” John Crow said, adding that the public needs to be notified of dogs housed in the facility before they are euthanized.
“My biggest concern would be a vicious dog that is a menace to the public,” Gray said.
Washington then presented a sketch of the proposed shelter the county would build at the jail and suggested investigating the cost to build the shelter.
“If we are going to get in the dog business, are we going to get in a cat business?” Harmon asked.
“I don’t think we have to make a decision tonight, but we need to be thinking about it,” Washington said.
“Everybody has asked me ‘how are you doing with the supervisor job.’ You know what I told them, it is like trying to farm 100 acres of cotton with a garden tiller. We have a lot of problems,” Harmon said.
“Who comes first, taxpayers are stray dogs?” Gray asked. “We were more than willing to work with them (SCAA).”
“Quote me on saying this, do you want me to fix the roads in Beat 4 or do you want me to put the money with the dogs,” Harris said.
“I don’t think the county doing the shelter is a good idea,” Shannon Crow added.
“If you get in that business, it is hard to get out,” John Crow agreed.
District 2 Supervisor Ken Rogers noted that the county doesn’t have the money to pay county employees $30,000 a year.
“And some of them have 15 or 20 years experience,” Rogers added.
The discussion came to a close as supervisors contemplated responding to the SCAA post on Facebook. Supervisors reiterated they were willing to continue paying $12,000 annually to SCAA.
“We were good with what we had and they opted out. They wanted $3,500 a month,” Gray said. “That is almost a half a mill.”
“Let me remind you, 25 percent of the county is in federal land, we get very little PILT payment,” Chancery Clerk Amy McMinn said, referring to the federal payment in lieu of taxes the county receives from the federal government for federal acres in the county.
“This year’s homestead exemption, 57 percent of the population is over 65 or disabled. That means 43 percent of the population is toting the load,” McMinn noted about the county’s tax base.
The meeting closed as the attorneys agreed to revisit the negotiations with SCAA volunteers.
Chills went over me at the statement Washington said. Bullets are cheap. Beware of people with so little heart. Cut the fat on the roads and save innocent animals. Give it to SCAA who does gives animals second changes. You get both needs handled.
I live in Oakland. We have several dogs that stay around here on a regular basis. What I see is that this area is a “drop-off” area for people that want to abandon their animals. I see several dogs a week running down my street looking scared and confused. I know they’ve just been dropped off. Is there any way to control that? I think it should come up for discussion. Thank you.