April 11, 2007

After hearing complaints about Animal Control and having issues with the past two Animal Control officers, the BOC appointed an animal control committee to give them recommendations about how Animal Control was handled in Jasper County.

The Committee met several times during December 2006 an in January and February 2007 to meet with the new Animal Control officer (Amber Castleman) and get her input as well as to discuss problems, ideas, and issues.

Briefly, the Animal Control Committee recommends:
The fee for dumping animals be increased to a $500 minimum per animal, that signage be installed at the center, and that the animal control officer answer to either the sheriff or the county manager, not the planning & zoning director as she currently does. Also, the committee recommends that at least one cage remain empty at all times for rabies, dog bites, and other emergencies; that a website be used to post pictures of the animals picked up by animal control, that volunteers be utilized, and most importantly that energy be spent on educating the public on the importance of spaying and neutering.

Read the complete details on all the recommendations:

Recommendations from Committee Members regarding Animal Control
Presented to Jasper County Board of Commissioners
April 2, 2007

Recommendation 1:
The AC facility is not identified with a sign or any other type of ID on the building. There is not a sign on the road pointing to the AC facility. The phone number for AC is not in the phone book.

The AC committee recommends a large sign at the intersection of Hwy 212 and Mack Tillman Dr. with days, hours, and phone number.
• The AC building should be identified with a large sign visible from Mack Tillman Dr.
• The Animal control vehicle needs information posted on it with phone numbers.
• Someone must be responsible for having the number in the next phone book.

Recommendation 2:
There were questions as to where calls should be made -- to 911 as they are now or to Animal Control directly.

The Committee recommends that the calls should continue to go through 911 so there is a legal recording of all incidents.
• These 911 records will enable the BOC, supervisor, and/or the committee to later compare how many calls are received and how many are being responded to.

Recommendation 3:
The AC officer mentioned at a previous meeting that she does not have time to keep a log. Several members expressed concern that a log would be for the officer’s own protection as well as documentation as to what she does and when.

The committee recommends that the AC officer must be required to keep a log for protection as well as documentation.
• This should start immediately..

Recommendation 4:
Volunteers have seemed to be discouraged by our County Attorney, yet most other shelters are either run by volunteers or have volunteers help in a big way.

The Committee Recommends:

• The Commissioners find a way to use volunteers to answer the phone, do and/or file paperwork, “show” animals to prospective “adopters” of the animals, etc.
• Senior groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc. would be potential volunteers as well as high school students interested in a career as a vet or other area with animals.
• Any and all means should be employed in using volunteers as much as possible to reduce cost and to give the AC officer time to keep her log.

Recommendation 5:
Supervision of the AC officer—At present the AC officer has been under the “supervision” of the Planning and Zoning Director. Two possible supervisors mentioned at the meeting were the Sheriff or the County Manager.

70% of the Committee felt the Sheriff should supervise because this is a law enforcement issue and is on duty 24/7 as well as the fact that the AC officer may have to have a deputy with her at times. However, the Committee does not recommend that the AC officer be a deputy.

The Committee recommends the BOC should decide between the County Manger and the Sheriff.
• The Committee was in total agreement the AC officer should NOT be supervised by anyone at Planning & Zoning, including the Code Enforcement officer.
• The Committee also agreed that Code Enforcement should be Code Enforcement, not Animal Control.

Recommendation 6:
In the job description of the AC officer it states that the job is to “Control the animal population” and mentions part of the officer’s duties is to “Patrol the County.”

Committee members expressed concern about both these areas in the job description.
The committee recommends:

• The #1 priority should be to respond to calls. There should be no patrolling of the County “looking” for animals.
• It was also agreed that if she happens upon a problem while she’s out, she can address it … but she does not need to go looking for a problem.

Recommendation 7:
There are only 14 cages at the AC facility.

The committee recommends that ONE should be empty at all times for rabies, dog bites, and other emergency calls.
The committee recommends that AC NOT to pick up any more animals except in emergencies if all the cages were full.
• The AC officer should contact anyone calling and tell them she doesn’t have room at that time and recommend a course of action or take a trap to the caller.
• This goes along with “patrolling the county” and picking up animals just because “they are seen out.” Recommendation 6 addresses this situation.
The committee recommends that the building be redesigned, added to, and/or restructured to provide more than 14 cages/pens. The committee agreed that the building was not designed well, has no outdoor runs for the animals, and no place for the animals to be except in the cages—even while the cages are being scrubbed with bleach.
The committee recommends that an outdoor fenced area be installed as soon as possible. This would allow the AC officer to clean the cages while each animal is put outside for fresh air and exercise while its cage is cleaned.

Recommendation 8:
The committee received some information on buying a crematory vs. having euthanized animals picked up. Complete figures as to actual costs have never been obtained.

The committee recommends

• The need actual cost comparison of crematorium vs. other methods of disposal—this includes cost of time spent, time traveled, actual utility bill increases, etc. The committee did not receive enough information to make a recommendation. There is agreement that there is more involved than the basic cost of a crematory.
• The committee concurs that Jasper County has bigger issues to clear up before jumping into more.
• The committee concurs that educating the public will far more beneficial to the entire program in the long run.

Recommendation 9:
The ordinance as it is now written seems to be written more for a suburban area rather than a rural area. People with acreage do not feel they need to have their dog on a chain or in a pen all day long.

**Note: The current AC officer has rewritten the ordinance, which the AC committee did not have time to review.

The committee recommends:

• The BOC or the AC committee research other agricultural counties who have already implemented successful programs. If there are effective plans being utilized, then we don’t need to be wasting our money by starting from scratch.
• Once a new ordinance is written there should be public meetings to garner public opinion.

Recommendation 10:
Fines should be imposed for people “dumping” animals, especially in densely populated areas such as subdivisions and towns.

The committee recommends heavy fines for dumping. Even though some members recommended fines as high as $2500, the consensus is as follows:

• A minimum of $500 per animal for the first offense.
• For the second offense the fine should be $750 per animal as well as community service.

Recommendation 11:
A website would be the best/easiest way to get the word out about the animals that have been picked up as well as those that can be adopted. The county is paying for a website that is not being utilized now.

The committee recommends:

• Any animal that is tagged and/or appears to be a pet that is picked up by AC needs to posted on the county website with a picture.
• The county employee in charge of the website could upload information and pictures from the AC officer –or from volunteers.
• Volunteers would be perfect and helpful in taking pictures, writing a bio, and helping with the website.
• The county should also utilize “Petfinder ®”, which is the website most used for finding pets that are lost or to adopt.
• The county should budget money in the AC budget for ads in the paper and work with the paper for a monthly column to educate the public.

Recommendation 12:
Spay and neuter clinics were discussed as well as “forcing” the animal to be spayed or neutered after the 2nd time it is picked up.

The committee recommends that the County Attorney find out if it is “legal” or not to force a pet owner to spay or neuter his pet after it is picked up more than once.

Recommendation 13:
The job description of the AC officer has not been thoroughly reviewed nor have the ordinances.

The committee recommends that the BOC appoint a standing Animal Control committee that will continue meeting to review the job description, the ordinances, and to hold hearings in disputes as required (per the AC officer).

The committee recommends once a new ordinance is written it should be put out for public scrutiny before adoption for at least 2 weeks and be in the BOC office as well as in the Library for review.

Other comments made by Committee members about AC in Jasper County.

• Do not spend our tax dollars reinventing the wheel!! Others have already done this. Let’s talk with them and get their input.
• We must all work together on this issue and all issues facing Jasper County. The citizens, employees and elected officials need to continually strive to find positive and maybe innovative ways to solve problems.
• Educate, educate, educate. The AC officer could educate the public on the responsibility of animal ownership. Perhaps her going into schools and doing a presentation to the kids would help to begin to educate them as well.
• An “open house” would be a good idea. The public can see the facility, meet the AC officer, and be educated on the areas of responsible pet ownership.

The committee consists of:
Mary Patrick, Chairman
Kathy Mudd
Shelba Jean Morrison
Lyn McLaurin
David Dammann
Susan Kelly
Kathy Thomason
Bob Heiney
Kathy Thomas



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