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In recent weeks, several things have been in the works in attempts to help improve the county’s animal control following the sheriff’s address to fiscal court over the matter last month.
With an expired contract between Metcalfe County Fiscal Court and local veterinarian Dr. David LaFever, discussions have begun between the two parties for a new one.
Present in the Feb. 13 fiscal court meeting, LaFever presented a proposed contract that limited his services to dogs only and provides more clarity on certain matters. Metcalfe County Attorney Sharon Howard said she made changes to the proposed contract and those were discussed.
While most of the new contract is similar to the old, there are a few exceptions such as an increased compensation rate, specifies dogs only and a maximum of 25 due to limited space, and specifies how impounded dogs with a known owner will be executed thereby limiting the contract to “stray” dogs only and the county responsible for any fees that arise on dogs with known owners.
For dogs with known owners, the new contract states the dog will be admitted to LaFever’s private clinic, the Edmonton Veterinary Clinic.
When it comes to extra fees, LaFever told the fiscal court he is mostly unsuccessful in recouping the costs and felt like it wasn’t his responsibility to collect money owed to him after law enforcement removes an animal from a person’s possession due to criminal abuse and neglect cases.
“The problem I’m running into is I’m the one who’s having to try to collect the money from owners that won’t pay me, because their dog has been taken to the shelter especially when the city police and the county sheriff department are involved in it,” LaFever explained.
He further said he has to attempt to collect those debts through court filings and associated fees and that 75% of the time he is never paid despite a judge’s ruling. The majority of the time he has recouped money has been when an individual is arrested for an unrelated criminal charge and it’s added into the bond costs, LaFever said.
As for other animals such as large livestock, LaFever said the space is limited and would require new construction of an area and additional costs. In the old contract, stray cats were included but the new proposal doesn’t list cats, only stray dogs.
“I’m trying to concentrate on where our problem is here,” LaFever said in response to Howard’s question about including other animals, “Cats have never been a problem as far as stray cats. It’s always been, going back 33 years, it’s been dogs.”
But when it comes to private property and seized animals from law enforcement, LaFever said he will only euthanize with a court order.
And for the strays, he explained a part of his care for the stray dogs includes vaccinations, de-worming, flea treatments, spaying or neutering, and with the cost and time he puts into caring for them, a fate of euthanasia is basically a waste of those efforts.
Metcalfe County Judge/Executive Larry Wilson asked if the problems the LaFevers run into are more in the county or city. LaFever said in regards to calls of dogs running loose and causing problems, the majority are from the city.
“I’d say probably over 50, probably 75% of them are from the city,” LaFever said, adding oftentimes he knows the dog’s owners and makes efforts to reach them.
He also said he receives numerous calls and complaints regarding loose dogs in the Center community.
Magistrate Daniel Bragg pointed out dog owners are statutorily required to pay the costs associated with the matter, however, he added, “It’s just a matter of enforcing it.”
Bragg suggested turning over the non-payments from these owners to the city and country attorneys to take them to court. Howard said that would require an ordinance to be approved and dealt with in a similar fashion to a small claims civil matter.
Dishonesty from pet owners is also an issue when they deny a pet isn’t theirs when it actually is.
More discussion was held with details on how to consider holding pet owners responsible as it pertains to state laws already in place.
Following the discussion, Wilson announced a website is nearing completion that will facilitate fostering and adoptions for the stray dogs. Wilson announced in a January meeting that he was working on a foster program and reiterated that point last week.
“[The website] is almost done,” Wilson said, “It will be strictly for Metcalfe County. It will be tied into a lot of other agencies who adopt pets.”
Two people are interested in establishing a committee to include maintaining the website and establishing a fostering program for some of the dogs, the Judge/Executive said.
“And to be fair,” Wilson added, “I’m not going to ask people to do it when I wouldn’t be able to myself.” He added he is preparing to personally foster two dogs at a time himself to help alleviate the daunting problem.
He announced the plan is to be “up and going” within thirty days.
“A CITY PROBLEM”
Wilson said the City of Edmonton needs to be involved in the ongoing animal control problems especially if more dogs are being impounded from the city limits as opposed to the whole county.
“It’s as much their responsibility as it is ours in my opinion,” Wilson said before requesting Howard’s legal opinion. She said an agreement could be made between the city and county.
“I don’t see why we should foot the bill for what is, I’m going to say, mainly a city problem. It’s just the way it is,” Wilson said.
Wilson told the court he is open to approaching the city and requesting their help with the problem. He suggested the county attorney and the LaFevers work together on the new contract details and consider a new ordinance in the interim.
Bragg pointed out that while he agrees pet owners should be held responsible, he was hesitant to consider creating a new ordinance for citizens without ensuring a legal requirement hasn’t already been put in place.
County Treasurer Page Edwards and magistrates also discussed some of the grants that the county could consider.
According to KRS 258.195, responsibilities to local governments especially using the words “shall” and “may” and as for the county, animal control is a mandated responsibility.
When it comes to cities, discretion is left as to whether or not they want to participate in any animal control matters at all. It also details the city and county can enter an agreement for enforcement of the county’s animal control ordinances.
Additionally, animal control officers are given the authority to issue citations to pet owners and animal bites are dealt with at the health department.
All magistrates were present, no actions were taken, and the court approved to table until more details were made available.
– Metcalfe County Clerk Shannon Fields presented a check for $99,825.29 in excess fees for the 2022 Final Settlement. Fields reported a receipt total of $2,600,974.16 and disbursements totaling $2,501,148.87;
– EM Director Emory Kidd was approved for the appointment of Applicant Agent;
– Jonathan Glass was present requesting to shut down 385 feet of Fred Ray Road at the entrance of his property. Magistrates approved, however, advertising and posting will be required for thirty days before finalizing;
– No action was taken following a closed session for deliberation on the future sale of real property per KRS 61.810(1)(b);
– Approval of January financial statement with a reconciliation cash balance of $4,078,762.82;
– Approval of budget/interfund transfers for Jan. 25 through Feb. 13. After the vote, Bragg made a second request in open court to apply a memo to the claims summaries voted on by the court. While some items are obvious, Bragg noted, it really isn’t clear what each item is for that they’re approving.
He suggested considering replacing a “dated system” with one that would allow easy entry for memo lines for the checks the county is writing. The county treasurer said the program is used by many counties.