EDITORIAL: County must step up to animal-control issue

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We are sad to see the latest efforts to bring real animal control to Perry County dismissed in recent acts by the county commissioners and council.

As we reported Sept. 23, County Commissioner Tom Hauser said during a Sept. 3 meeting he didn’t remember the county’s animal welfare, control and education board asking for $40,000 to pay an officer to perform animal-control duties.

We’re confused as to how he could have missed that. The board’s request had two parts. They asked that a “temporary fix” be established that would have someone respond, at the sheriff’s authorization, to animal complaints issued through the county’s police-dispatch office. A fund was established that would get $5,000 for initial efforts under that recommendation.

The board’s recommendation also suggested the county hire a new deputy, who would be trained in animal-control duties. Alternatively, the county could “designate $40,000 for an animal-control officer,” the board suggested.

Excluding the addressee and signature blocks, the board’s recommendation letter contains only 17 lines of text, and that recommendation is on a line all by itself. White space above and below it makes it hard to miss.

Perhaps Hauser gave it so little consideration that he truly didn’t recall seeing it. If he didn’t want to support the recommendation, he should have simply said so.

County Council President Steve Goodson said at the end of this year’s budget sessions Thursday “this was one of the toughest budgets we’ve encountered in many years.” With that in mind, they likely would have been unable to fund the $40,000, but without a recommendation from the commissioners, they didn’t even consider it.

The account from which the sheriff could have paid someone to capture bothersome animals will remain empty, as the council refused to authorize $5,000 the commissioners included in their budget for animal-handling fees.

“Can we leave a thousand in that?” Councilman Jim Adams asked when that line item was discussed Tuesday.

“I want to take it to zero,” Councilman Stan Goffinet replied. “I don’t want to even open the door on this.”

The council moved on without further discussion except an explanation by County Auditor Connie Berger that funds could be appropriated later.

A search on the News’ website for animal-control stories results in a long list detailing the considerable effort county people have expended on the issue. The board’s creation appeared to have been significant progress, but if county officials refuse to support them in the task they’ve taken on, what is the point of their existence?

Jim Carter, president of the Humane Society of Perry County, told the News people in Perry County are becoming frustrated by the lack of animal-control services. People have long called him in the mistaken belief that he’s affiliated with the county’s animal shelter, and the calls sometimes average two or three per week, he said.

Some of the reports have been about animals missing from sporting-dog clubs, whose value can be in the thousands of dollars, he said, and he’s afraid they’re being shot by people who feel they have no other options.

“They’re very frustrated,” Carter said. “They hang up, saying ‘I’ll take care of it myself.”

It’s a county problem. The county needs to step up and handle it, with whatever resources it can muster.

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