The animal control issue returns Monday as a topic before the Ellis County Commissioners Court.
Although a county staff member has told her no decision will be made and commissioners have the right to cut off the discussion, Ennis resident Kennette Davis told the Daily Light on Saturday she will continue to bring the issue back again and again, if necessary.
To date, Davis has collected 871 signatures requesting re-instatement of the leash law. That’s more signatures than votes received by County Commissioner Pct. 2 Bill Dodson when he was elected to office in the 2006 elections, she notes.
An online poll conducted by the Daily Light in September also indicates strong support for a leash law in Ellis County, with 604 people voting “yes” in support, 141 voting “no” and 13 voting “no opinion.”
Expressing her appreciation to all those who signed the petition asking that the leash law be reinstated, Davis said she is urging everyone possible to attend the meeting, which is set for 10 a.m. in the second floor courtroom at the Ellis County Courthouse.
She said the staff person told her each speaker would be limited to three minutes - and the commissioners would likely cap the entire discussion at 15 minutes.
She questions why the commissioners can make such a decision as rescinding a leash law - and limit the public’s input into the matter.
“It’s worth more than 15 minutes of our time,” she said. “We’ve got 871 signatures and I could have gotten more, but I wanted to go ahead and get in front of them at a meeting.”
The issue isn’t over, even after Monday, she said. “We are going to continue to push the subject.”
Since commissioners rescinded the leash law, Davis said she has heard from a number of people questioning why the county service was cut.
“Where’s the $350,000 the commissioners said they saved going to?” Davis asked, saying she wants to know if the savings were directed to raises for commissioners and county employees.
“People are real concerned about the money issue,” said Davis, noting a major concern for people is the commissioners’ position that the county isn’t going to pick up abandoned and stray dogs and cats anymore.
Those loose, abandoned animals are forming packs, she said, noting two dogs - one wearing a collar - recently killed one of her father’s cows as it was trying to calve in his pasture.
The community at large is angry, Ellis County SPCA executive director Dana White agrees.
“We haven’t seen one person who said the commissioners did a great job by doing this,” said White, whose nonprofit agency has now come under criticism because it doesn’t have the financial resources to take in all animals for free. “I haven’t had one person walk into the shelter or call that said this is great that we don’t have animal control.”
People want stray and abandoned dogs and cats picked up, White said.
Since commissioners redid the ordinance, which had been in effect since 1996, the number of animals brought in by county animal control has decreased significantly, White said, noting 40 animals were brought in during October and only 19 were brought in during November.
“That’s a huge decrease,” said White, who also intends to be at Monday’s meeting to hear the discussion.
Discussion by commissioners in September indicated they felt the $300,000-plus cost for animal control was too much out of the county’s $33 million general budget. As well, the commissioners said they felt people were simply dumping their dogs on the county.
Anyone wanting to speak on the topic must complete a form at the door and turn it in prior to the meeting’s start.
Since the rescission of the leash law, several people have contacted the Daily Light to complain about the commissioners’ decision.
Among those are Allen and Nancy Hamilton, who had a small female Chihuahua abandoned by their property, which is about two miles outside of Palmer.
The couple provided the Daily Light with a copy of a letter they wrote to commissioners, expressing their disappointment after being told by the sheriff’s office it was no longer allowed to pick up abandoned animals. In the letter, Allen Hamilton said he met with Commissioner Pct. 1 Dennis Robinson and was told to “dispose of the animal” at his discretion.
“Your action has given free rein to irresponsible animal owners to just turn their unwanted dogs and cats out to fend for themselves, which we all know is not possible,” Hamilton wrote. “Certainly this poor little female Chihuahua weighing approximately 4 pounds would never had made it through a night without being painfully killed by coyotes. You have also made it the burden of responsible citizens who care about the plight of abandoned animals to protect the same with absolutely no assistance from the county.”
Hamilton said he questions “why we pay Ellis County taxes each and every year for what appears to be less and less services. Certainly some of the roads in the county are not maintained properly and now you have basically washed your hands of any responsibility for animal control, except for vicious or rabid animals.”
“I am sure you realize that most of the abandoned dogs and cats are not vicious, just products of idiot owners,” he said. “Do you realize that by your decision that each of you is leaving innocent animals to die while their irresponsible and uncaring owners just continue time after time to get a dog or cat, not care for it and dump it when it becomes too much of a problem?”
Under the 1996 ordinance’s all-inclusive language of “abandoned, unwanted, stray” - the sheriff’s office was obligated to pick up all animals. The commissioners’ action in September took out the “running at large” portion of the ordinance and revised the language to indicate that only dogs believed to be vicious or rabid will be picked up - and cats believed to be rabid also can be picked up. People who have problems with dogs can contact the sheriff’s office to issue citations and residents also have the option to go to justice of the peace court with their complaints. There is some provision in the ordinance to allow a dog to be picked up if it can be determined to be a “nuisance.” Animal cruelty remains prohibited.
Officials have said animal complaint calls are a major source of calls for the sheriff’s office.
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