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License intended for public's safety

By By Adrienne McKenzie
The Atmore Animal Shelter employees are working diligently to keep animals off the streets and citizens safe from strays.
It is important for everyone to understand the city animal license and to abide by the rules and regulations that the city is trying to uphold for the safety of animals and community members, Kathryn Wheeler from the Atmore Animal Shelter said.
The city animal licenses are due for this year and Wheeler wants the community to understand that the shelter is not upholding the rules to cause inconvenience to pet owners.
"After reading the papers and seeing that this has turned into such a big ordeal, the Atmore Animal Shelter apologizes for any inconvenience," Wheeler said.
The city chose to put flyers on all doors of city residents to insure everybody was informed about the license. Atmore has been divided into sections, with each section having a re-check date. That date is posted on the flyer.
The re-check date is not a deadline; it is simply a date that animal control officers will be back in the area ensuring everyone with a pet has a license. The deadline for the license was Jan. 31 so it is important to get the license before the re-check date. If the license has not been purchased before the date, a violation could be written.
The animal control officers will also be checking to make sure all animals have proper housing, a house that has a floor, roof and sides and is off the ground to keep them out of the cold, hot and wet weather. They will check to make sure each animal has a sufficient amount of water and food available, that they are in good health and that they are being kept on their owner's property. The officers will check the area the animals are being kept in to make sure it is clean and free of fecal matter. During the summer time it will be enforced that animals have plenty of shade to keep from overheating.
When the re-check date comes, the officers will pull license books and check off all individuals that have their city animal license. If the animal with the appropriate address is not found in the license books, officers will go back to that resident to ensure there is still no license. If there is no license, the violation process will begin, which could lead to criminal charges.
Everyone inside city limits must have the city animal license, if they own an animal.
The animal control officers want to ensure people are being responsible for their pets.
"Animal control is not upholding the city license to make it hard for everyone," Wheeler said. "They just want everyone to be responsible for their animals. By the animals having a city license on, if something were to happen, we would know who the animal belonged to."
It is also important to report all stray animals. By keeping any stray animals, you eventually become responsible for those animals' actions. Also if animals do not get reported, people that are looking for their lost pets may not be able to find them.
In the City of Atmore, animal control officers take their responsibility to the community seriously. The policies and laws already exist in the city's ordinances to provide the area with fair and safe animal control.
"The Atmore animal control is here for animal and citizen safety," Wheeler said.
Wheeler said that things are beginning to look up in the city. Fewer pets are running loose throughout the town and more stray animals are being reported. Animal control officers have picked up many stray animals, including a few wild stray female dogs that had puppies. Thanks to citizens reporting these dogs, the mother was not able to hurt someone while defending her puppies. Also, the mother dog and puppies were saved from starvation. As this process continues, there will be fewer stray animals, which means less animals will be starving on the streets and running rampant.
Also more owners are being responsible for their pets, meaning more animals are being vaccinated for rabies, which protects the owners and people in the Atmore area.
There are only two animal control officers for the entire city. The job is long and hard for those two officers. The first the officers do when walking in the door each morning is check the answering machine and address any emergencies first. Then they handle any complaints. The officers are responsible for all the duties to maintain the shelter including washing clothes and dishes, keeping adequate food supplies for dogs and cats, maintaining records as well as maintaining veterinarian care for all animals at the shelter.
For those people who are having problems with stray animals, the safest way to catch them is with a live trap. The trap is set to capture the animal without injuring it. There are a limited amount of traps that can be set at one time, which means there is a list for the use of them. If you are having a problem with stray animals, the animal shelter wants to ensure you that you will get a trap set. The officers will not take animals out of traps that are not provided by the shelter, so it is important to not trap them yourself.
Remember that there is no reason to dump your animals. If caught, this offense comes with felony charges. If you do not want your animal, it is important to call either the city shelter or the County Humane Society at 251-867-6860.
The animal shelter assists pet owners with the cost of spaying or neutering of animals through a program called "Spayd with Heart." With the help of this program, pet owners can get their animals spayed, neutered or vaccinated for rabies at a discounted price.
There are times when the animal control officers have to leave the office in order to get an animal vaccinated or to pick up stray animals.
"If animal control is not at the shelter, we apologize," Wheeler said. "Each call that is made to us that is not answered, will go to the answering machine. The machine is checked every 30 minutes, even when we are out of the office. All calls are written down into the call log book, and each call will be returned."
It is important to leave the appropriate message when the officers are not in. Each message should carry this information: name, phone number, address and the problem.
The Atmore Animal Shelter is also working on renovating its building.
"We are fixing the roof on the building," Wheeler said. "We are also fixing the old building up. We're painting and getting the floors fixed. Most of the fences have been repaired. We want to make the building on the side the adoption building."
For more information on the animal control license or the shelter, please call the Atmore Animal Shelter at 368-0859.