Doug Friedlander presented core elements of an Animal Control Center ordinance to the Helena-West Helena City Council Tuesday night in order to initiate operations of the soon to be completed center.
A coalition consisting of Phillips County Judge Don Gentry and all five mayors of the surrounding Phillips County authored a resolution authorizing each city to enter an agreement with the Humane Society of the Delta to provide animal control services in Phillips County.
“This was essentially proposed two years ago because of the extensive amount of dogs roaming the cities and surrounding areas,” commented Friedlander.
According to Friedlander, there is not enough money in just one municipality in Phillips County to do this alone.
“Together, we can afford something that we desperately need. We have not had adequate animal control in the last several years and we could all benefit from this,” stated Friedlander.
Friedlander provided the council with a previous resolution that was proposed March 2011 plus some proposed core elements that will impact the collection and disposition of animals by the ACC.
“Anything above and beyond the core elements can be added by individual municipalities at their own discretion,” he stressed.
Friedlander outlined several key provisions including licensing requirements for pets, collar requirements, the possible requirement of spaying/neutering animals, vaccinations and circumstances of when an animal will be impounded.
“You will not be required to license your pet. However, it is state law that all dogs must wear a collar with a rabies tag. It is also not required that you have your animal spayed or neutered but it is highly recommended because permitting unaltered animals to run loose does present a public health risk and increase the costs of animal control to the county and it's cities,” stated Friedlander.
Friedlander added that if the owner decides to spay/neuter their animal, the impoundment fee would be lowered.
Friedlander explained that vaccinations for rabies, distemper and Parvo are mandatory for all animals to receive.
“If an animal is 'running at large', not confined to a house, car, fenced in area or on a leash, it will be picked up regardless of whether or not it is wearing a collar,” said Friedlander.
Under the ordinance, if passed, any animal ordered to be impounded or destroyed by a court of competent jurisdiction, constitutes a public nuisance or is considered a danger to the public, suspected of having rabies, reasonably believed to have been abused or neglected, or is unattended and is ill, injured or otherwise in need of care will be impounded by an animal control officer.
Friedlander said there would be some leeway to first offenses.
“Any animal apprehended running at large by an animal control officer may, at the discretion of the officer, be returned to the owner if they can easily discern who the owner is, without first taking the animal to the ACC or issuing the owner a citation, for a first offense,” he stated.
Page 2 of 3 - The ACC will impound an animal up to 7 days. It the owner does not come forward to claim it and pay the required fees, the HSD will then deem the animal be adopted or euthanized.
“The only exception to this rule is if the animal has bitten someone or has demonstrated a likelihood of having rabies, or if the animal has a terminal illness or injuries that potentially merit an earlier euthanasia, which may be done 24 hours by agreement of both licensed veterinarian and a representative of the Humane Society of the Delta,” informed Friedlander.
Friedlander explained that fees will be collected to recover an impounded animal and will be calculated by adding up the following three elements:
•First offense: $35 ($25 if animal is spayed/neutered)
•All offenses thereafter: $65 ($35 if animal is spayed/neutered)
Daily boarding fee: $20/day
The cost of any required tests or corrective actions, such as
•Test for distemper
•Test for rabies, distemper, and/or Parvo vaccinations (if proof not provided by owner)
•Flea/tick treatment (if animal comes in infested with one or both)
Friedlander reminded the council that if the city wishes to implement any other element above and beyond the proposed elements presented, it is their right to do so.
“First offense fees will be allotted to whatever municipality the animal is captured in and the $20 daily boarding fee will go to the operation of ACC,” explained Friedlander.
Friedlander stated that the city proposed good spiritual faith in the resolution that states that they would provide two full-time staff members from the Sanitation Department to serve as county wide animal control officers. According to city clerk Sandi Ramsy, there are only two street department workers that have the training to be available as animal control officers.
Councilman John Huff questioned whether or not citizens would need to contact ACC or the HSD themselves.
“We recommend that you call your local municipality who will then inform the ACC and the Humane Society of the Delta with your animal report or issue. Right now, Philips County has claim to about 90 percent of the kennel space but when the kennels are full, we can't take in any more animals until animals are removed for adoption, pick up or transport,” reported Friedlander.
Weekend services will have to be worked out between the city and the full-time animal control officers. Friedlander said the original proposal detailed that the employees from the street department would work a scattered schedule for 5 days a week, which would break down Tuesday through Saturday and Monday through Thursday. So, seven days would be covered as well as weekend care for the animals without the cost of over time.
The council is concerned with the reality of the appropriation of funding while the city's revenue is dwindling.
Page 3 of 3 - “The city's proposed “spiritual faith” in the resolution states that they would spiritually commit at an incredible discounted opportunity for animal control. “Mayor Arnell Willis indicated that this commitment will be honored,” Friedlander commented.
Councilman Joe. St. Columbia commented that “the city's feet cannot be held to the fire” by a resolution.
Friedlander concluded that without the city of Helena West Helena's commitment to the resolution, the $200,000 USDA grant-funded project would collapse.
Lack of transportation and the lack of manpower for the street department were also addressed.
The ACC is expected to begin operating in early May and will benefit Helena-West Helena, Marvell, Elaine, Lake View, Lexa and the unincorporated areas of Phillips County.