Concerns arise over rural animal control

Published 6:14 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A west Chilton County resident is speaking out about the lack of animal control in rural areas of the county.

Pandora Riggen said she recently discovered dead puppies in plastic bags near her property not far from Maplesville High School. The puppies had apparently been shot, she told county commissioners Monday night.

Riggen asked the commission to consider hiring an animal control officer to enforce cruelty laws in rural areas.

“We have had animals dumped off at our property,” Riggen said. “This is unacceptable to me.”

She added that it’s not uncommon to see unwanted or abused animals that are either roaming the countryside or have been left for dead.

“They’re wild. You cannot get your hands on them. They’re continuously having puppies,” she said.

Riggen said she contacted the Chilton County Humane Society but was told that due to the lack of a confinement law, nothing could be done.

While municipalities in Chilton County have animal control officers and ordinances pertaining to animal confinement, the county lacks both. As a result, complaints from outside the county often go unanswered.

Commissioner Allen Caton thinks the humane society should be providing more services in rural areas because they are funded by the county.

“I feel like they should be taking care of the people,” he said Monday.

Humane Society Director Joe Murphy said while the county is required to have an impound facility, animal control falls under law enforcement and is not the role of the humane society.

“I don’t know of a humane society that does animal control,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I think until the community demands more, it’s going to continue the way it has been.”

Murphy noted that the commission has cut the humane society from $20,000 per year down to $7,500 per year. Daily expenses include vaccinations, de-worming, flea treatment, cleaning supplies, heating and cooling. The state requires animals to be held for seven days.

“They’re getting off really, really cheap with the services provided,” Murphy said. “I haven’t turned away any animals. We’re falling short every month.”

When asked about the dumping of animal carcasses, Murphy said it’s part of a bigger problem. He said education and enforcement are key, and the presence of an officer would be a deterrent.

“You also have to teach people to respect life. And how do I do that for people raised to believe that animals are a commodity like anything else?” he said.

Caton said an animal control officer would have to be hired through the Chilton County Sheriff’s Department. But the current budget does not allow for that position.

“We can’t pay somebody to patch a hole in the road, much less to be an animal control officer,” Commissioner Joe Headley said.