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January 23, 2007

CATTLE RUSTLING OR CODE ENFORCEMENT?

Jasper County is a rural county and people seem to like it that way. Being a rural, agricultural county means that people raise cows, goats, chickens, other livestock and crops. When cows, horses, goats and chickens are raised, they sometimes “get out” of the pasture or pen. This is normal. It is not a “crime” unless it is a common and continuing occurrence.

However, our Code Enforcement officer, “Cowboy” Rogers as some call him, has now started to pick up “wandering” cows. TWG was called by several citizens last week telling us about the Code Enforcement officer picking up cows that could have just as easily been put back in the pasture. There are only two “farmers” that have cows in the area where these cows were picked up. It would probably not have been hard to find out who owned the cows. In fact, the way it USED to be is that the cows were put up in the nearest pasture and the owner came to get them.

Not now! This is how it is now in Jasper County. Some cows are out on the highway. The “Cowboy” is riding the roads in his trusty 4x4 Pickup and sees them. He immediately high tails it down the road to find a cattle trailer. He gets back and rounds up the cows. He takes them to a “friend’s” pasture down Clay Road and lets them out. When the owner of the cows finds out they’ve been “rustled” he goes to get his cows. He is told he must pay $1200 to get back 4 cows. After some talk, Cowboy Rogers tells him it will cost him $400. The owner balks again and says he’s going to talk with the Cowboy’s supervisor. The owner then tries to get his cows and realizes there is no Catch Pen to get the cows up. He then has to go back to his own property, pick up panels to make a makeshift catch pen, and then come back to get his cows. Things were made even more difficult by the horses that were in the pasture running around.

Questions: Who authorized Code Enforcement (CE) to take cows to a “friend’s” pasture? Who authorized CE to set the fee and then change the fee? Isn’t this part of the Magistrate Judge’s duties? Who is liable when the CE officer injures a cow—the County? The CE officer? Who is liable if the cow is pregnant and loses a calf because of the round up and hauling? Who is liable if the cow falls in a ditch on this “storage lot” on private property?

The BOC has never discussed such things as rounding up cows as part of Animal Control or Code Enforcement. When have they ever authorized taking cows and putting them on private property? When have they ever authorized using a “borrowed trailer” to haul private citizens livestock? When have they authorized CE to set or negotiate hauling and storage fees? Do they know about any of this and the liability the county could face?

This type thing that causes citizens to dislike Code Enforcement and Animal Control. TWG has heard it over and over—“These people think they are God. They do whatever they please. They come on my private property.” This is another area the Animal Control Committee must think about addressing. Until the Commissioners get some control, CATTLEMEN OF JASPER COUNTY—BEWARE!!

TWG
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