Commissioners: Embrace the passion, other resources you’ve been offered

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Someone approaches you and says, “you have a problem. I can help you with it and I might even be able to find money so you don’t have to pay for its solution.”

How do you react? Do you dismiss the offer and the person making it?

Jim Carter, president of the Humane Society of Perry County, made such an offer to the county commissioners.

He was met with what appeared to be evasiveness.

“We’ll have to address that at budget time,” was the gist of one kick-the-offer-down-the-road response. Another was about needing a recommendation from the county’s animal welfare, control and education board. That board already made some recommendations, as we reported in September. Commissioner Tom Hauser said then he didn’t remember seeing one of its suggestions, which would have cost $40,000, so we wonder whether he read their proposal at all.

The board and Carter also suggested a much less expensive option. The county could hire someone under a $6,000 contract to collect nuisance or dangerous animals at the direction of the sheriff and take them to the animal shelter. The board’s recommendations included a pay-per-call option that also would have required the sheriff’s authorization. They didn’t put a dollar figure on the service, but said pay “would be according to an established minimum” and perhaps mileage.  

If Hauser or the other commissioners don’t think a problem exists, or it’s not theirs to solve, or if they don’t like the recommendations from Carter or the board, they should say so.

In assigning the board responsibilities, as the commissioners did in forming it, the county leaders took on a responsibility of their own: to give its members the resources needed to fulfill their mandate. If the commissioners can’t meet that obligation, they should thank the board members for stepping up to help and free them to go about their lives.

How serious is the animal problem in Perry County? A listing of animal complaints reported through the county’s dispatch center for the first seven months of 2013 showed an average of 39 calls per month. At that rate, freeing up officers’ time would likely prove to be a good deal for the county.

The problem is serious enough that the county commissioners adopted an ordinance in late 2011 to address it and under that document’s authority, the animal-welfare board was assembled to put teeth into it. But the board was neutered, so to speak, by the county council’s refusal to implement a $1-per-dog tax. As we reported in January 2012, state law says portions of the ordinance referring to fees cannot be enforced until a dog tax is enacted.

The county council refused to do that, meaning the main goals of all of the efforts have gone unfulfilled. One of the efforts’ biggest purposes was to make the animal-control problem pay for its own solution by charging fees to those who keep animals and fines to those who can’t abide by the rules. It’s not a perfect solution, because it imposes requirements upon many who are always responsible with their animals, but to our knowledge, no more perfect a solution has been suggested.

In the steps it has taken, the county has made significant strides toward corralling its animal problem. The steps it has failed to take, however, make that progress meaningless.

Much disagreement would arise about cost, but we believe most of the residents of this county want people and animals to be protected from the dangers each could inflict on the other. Some, like Carter, are more proactive than the rest of us about working toward that. Many of us leave it to our elected officials to make the right choices.

We believe the right choice, when approached by someone who has passion, expertise, resources and a willingness to help, is not to dismiss him. Even if you don’t entirely agree with him, embrace his offer to help in the same spirit it was presented.

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