Animal control in Ellis County is an increasing issue, with sheriff’s Capt. Danny Williams reporting more than 300 dogs picked up during June alone.

The county contracts with the Ellis County SPCA to serve as its impound.

“We get an enormous number of calls relating to animal control,” Williams said, ranking animal control as a serious demand on the sheriff’s office.

Figures indicate the county took in 2,406 animals on 3,781 calls in 2006, with the department’s two animal control officers logging almost 86,000 miles.

This year to date, officers have picked up 1,379 dogs and cats on 1,835 calls, which doesn’t include the number of calls answered by deputies, Williams said, noting the majority of animals involved are of unknown ownership.

Because of the volume of animals going to the shelter, when officers can they attempt to make contact with the owners they do know to put the animals up as opposed to the officers taking them to the impound.

“There are just so many of them,” Williams said, saying the 2006 numbers alone reflect an increase of 18 percent over 2005’s.

“The first time around, we’re probably not going to issue a citation,” he said. “We try to give people the benefit of the doubt on the situation on the first go-round. If it becomes a problem, though, we tackle it with citations.

“We’re trying to educate people and get them to confine their animals,” he said.

Violations of the county’s animal control ordinance are a class C misdemeanor subject to a fine of up to $500. The cases are heard in the justice of the peace court of jurisdiction, with Williams noting either of the two animal control officers (one is a civilian employee) and any of the deputies can issue a citation.

Sheriff Ray Stewart has asked county commissioners to approve an additional civilian animal control officer position for the next fiscal year.