Budget forces cutbacks in animal control
By By Timothy Hawsey
Escambia County Sheriff's Office
The Escambia County Commission voted on the 2000-2001 fiscal year budget during the September 11, 2000 meeting.
The budget doesn't re-fund one of the two animal control officers assigned to the sheriff's office.
Last year, the commission voted to create the animal control unit and place it under the authority of the sheriff's department. They funded half of the program and an anonymous donor funded the other half. Included in the overall funding were two officers.
The donor contributed funding to help start the program with the hope that the commission could continue it after one year. Unfortunately, the county doesn't have the funds needed. One of the two officers will have to be terminated.
It has taken about a year for county residents to get acclimated to having someone available to help with stray and nuisance animal problems. The officers have really been busy. The unit has answered 892 animal control calls for service since October 1999, and performed over 2,500 rabies compliance checks. They picked up 453 dogs, 96 cats, set 68 traps and answered 33 livestock calls. The unit also investigated seven stolen dog cases, and worked nine cruelty to animal cases.
This county is 72 miles long and 42 miles wide, and there are approximately eighteen to twenty thousand rural residents this unit serves.
It is going to be extremely difficult for one officer to handle these duties. Rabies compliance checks will be severely diminished. As well as response time for the animal control deputy to get to complaints. It will also put more responsibility on the patrol deputies who are having difficulty getting to all of their calls now.
I do appreciate the person who gave the anonymous donation to help get the unit started, and I do understand that the county commission does not have the funds. We just ask the citizens we serve to please be patient. We will do the best we can to answer their animal control complaints.