As a long time animal lover, pet owner and small-time Black Angus cattle rancher, I can speak from my heart when I say.. Berkeley County needs a functioning, community-oriented Animal Control department. Too many animals in our county suffer from abuse and neglect.
The community oriented Animal Control concept involves the community working with Animal Control to protect our household pets and farm animals. By involving local people who care about protecting helpless animals and educating current and future animal owners of their responsibility, community outreach, public education and awareness program would keep more animals out of county shelters.
Other areas have applied this concept so there is no need to re-invent the wheel. An online search reveals the basic principles, reasoning and ideas that support the concept of public and private partnerships as a workable solution to address this ongoing community issue.
Around the country businesses and community groups work together cooperatively with local county agencies to assist in meeting local animal support needs. Together we can create a animal control policy that will not only protect animals but also build trust and understanding between the department and the community it serves.
Animal Control Officers should be friendly, available and visible. Whenever possible officers on patrol should drive slowly with windows open, or even better travel on foot. Bottom line, be more approachable. All officers of the law should be doing this, practice more social interaction and less driving in vehicles, the basis of community policing.
When an Animal Control Officers interacts with people for the first time, they should practice first name only introductions. A much more subtle and far less intimidating practice than using any name preceded by the term ‘officer’.
Instead of penalizing people for a first time violation of county ordinances, officers could and possibly should provide support information and local resources that include free shots, emergency food supplies or temporary housing, etc., giving people an opportunity to make humane choices for their animals.
I like the idea of kids being deputized as ‘Junior’ Animal Control Officers, given appropriate toys to use when playing with their pets while instilling the love and compassion for assisting animals that cannot defend or provide for themselves.
Instead of picking up a loose animals and immediately taking them to the shelter, officers can scan for a microchips or do a quick local search for the animals home. This allows time to explain to the owners why dogs must be under their control at all times.
Local caring people donate to national pet rescue programs around the country. Perhaps we could pursue some of that financial love for our local pets and farm animals, encouraging donations and active local participation.
The county could also create an incentive, legislating a tax friendly donation program that would encourage support for Animal Control and the important work they do.
Funding for such programs is a concern for local elected leaders. Never knowing exactly what the county council will or will not approve.. then putting the total cost on the taxpayer.. is not the way I would move forward. Public and private partnerships is a workable solution.
Currently the Animal Control building is too small for what it does, in need of supplies, equipment, updated vehicles and a morale boost. Our dedicated officers at Animal Control are doing the best they can with what they have.. I believe we can do better.
By creating public and private partnerships we can offset the budget dramatically giving the county the ability to expand services and lower costs. The concept is simple.. take dog food as an example. The county could open public bidding to provide for animal related supplies. By using the bid process for yearly contracts based on ‘annual’ consumption we can realize lower costs for taxpayers.
As an added incentive, the winning bid would also benefit from the recognition received by having their company name placed on Animal Control vehicles, agency related letterhead and public images.. stating that “ABC Animal Food Provider is a Proud Partner with Berkeley County Animal Control”.
As Sheriff, I will dedicate time to serving this county in every capacity As a proud county resident, pet owner and local rancher, I will always support Animal Control Officers and the important work they do. Berkeley County deserves better.. and I plan on making it better.