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Ivanhoe animal control officers answer questions on program, possible ordinance

by Emily Waldrep

After the implementation of Ivanhoe's new animal control program and possible new animal control ordinance, many citizens are concerned about the effect it could have on their everyday lives. To address those concerns, Tommy Morris and Joe McIntyre, animal control officers for Ivanhoe, held an open Question and Answer session and invited the community to attend. Concerned community members filled the Buck Priest Hall in Ivanhoe on September 25 and were able to ask questions for 2 hours. Both McIntyre and Morris answered each question to the best of their abilitiy and read the proposed animal control ordinance out loud.

The meeting brought to light several general areas of concern that citizens have. Most citizens are concerned that the animal control program will remove from the street family pets and dogs that have owners instead of wild and stray dogs. The Booster asked McIntyre and Morris what dogs would be picked up, criteria a dog would have to meet before being picked up, and if a dog with tags would be picked up.

"Basically, what we are doing right now is driving around Ivanhoe but we aren't picking up any random dogs," McIntyre said. "What we do is, if you have a dog come on your property that you don't want on your property, you call us and we come over and let you fill out a form allowing us to trap the dog. We set the trap, and if we trap the dog we put it in the animal shelter and post pictures of it at the IPIOA office and we are going to be able to put the animals onto our Ivanhoe website."

"We do not pick up dogs that belong to people," Morris said. "We don't go onto their property, unless they invite us there for some reason."

Citizens also wanted to know how long an animal would stay at the pound until they are euthanized or able to be adopted out. If a family pet without tags accidently ends up in the shelter, citizens wanted to know the time they would have to get their animal back.

"The state says that we have to keep the animal for 72 hours," McIntyre said. "Our ordinance says that after 72 hours, the animal becomes the property of the city. If the animal is not in bad physical shape, we will try to get it fostered or adopted. We will keep the animals as long as we can," Morris said.

Owners that are missing their pets can see pictures of every animal at the shelter posted on the board outside of the IPIOA office, or can contact Morris or McIntyre to go see the dogs at the shelter. Owners can completely avoid having their dogs impounded by putting a collar and name tag on their animal.

"If a dog is in a trap and has a collar, not even a rabies collar, and we can tell that the dog has been fed and has been taken care of, we let him out of the trap and let him run home," says McIntyre. "Dogs that are dirty, skinny, wounded, and appear to be a stray will be the ones taken in. Any dog with a collar, rabies tag, or name tag will never be put down," McIntyre said.

The Booster also asked the animal control officers if they would ever enter private property without a warrant or permission from the owner of the property. Many citizens are afraid that animal control ordinances will allow animal control officers to enter their property without permission, and McIntyre and Morris say that is absolutely not true.

"The only time we will do that is if we see an animal go into an abandon house and it doesn't have a collar on it, we will probably go onto that property to try and get that animal because it is most likely suffering," McIntyre said. Animal Control officers say that they will make sure that the dog has no collar and the property is obviously abandoned before they enter to try and save the dog. If the animal control officers want to enter private property that isn't abandoned they must have permission from the landowner or they must acquire a warrant.

"I can't imagine us going to get a warrant for anyone that is a responsible pet owner," McIntyre said, "We will not go on anyone's property without the proper official. In all likelihood, someone is going to have to issue a complaint," Morris said, "If we can't talk to the people in question, we will write them a letter and tell them what the problem is and give them an opportunity to address it. If they don't address it, we may go into legal action. We don't anticipate that ever happening," Morris said, "We might need to get a warrant, but it would be a last resort."

Citizens also worry about the section of the ordinance that requires them to have their pets up to date on rabies vaccinations and have a current rabies tag on their pets collar.

"The state law and the ordinance are the exact same when it comes to rabies," Morris said. Some citizens say that the ordnance just repeats the state law, but animal control officers say it must be included in the ordinance so that they can enforce it. If it isn't in the ordinance, we can't enforce it."

"We put this in our ordinance because not many people know about the Texas Training Manual on Zoonosis Control that is issued by the Texas Health and Safety Board," McIntyre said.

Citizens of Ivanhoe are also worried that animal control officers will drive around and check for rabies tags on loose dogs and cats, but Morris said that assumption is untrue.

"Realistically, unless we catch a dog in the trap we are not going to be checking rabies tags at anyone's house or on the street," Morris said. "For the most part, unless someone calls with a bite complaint, we are not going to anybody's house to check for rabies."

"People are concerned mostly that we will go on their property and check their dogs and we are not going to do that," Morris said. "The only time we are going on the property is if the owner invites us over or if we have a warrant."

"We will try face to face and we will try to send letters before we get a warrant," McIntyre said.

Citizens are also concerned about the physical location of the shelter and that the previous structure was reserved for campers. According to some citizens, the bathhouse was deed restricted for campers only. Other citizens say that they can hear the dogs barking from the shelter.

Morris and McIntyre say that they went to the Homeowners Association last year and the association deeded the two bathhouse lots and 14 extra acres to the city. McIntyre also went to the state to see if the city had to follow the ordinances of the city. The State reported that the city can use the property for anything they want.

"All you have to do is put in your ordinance that any city property can be used for whatever the city wants to use it for," McIntyre said. "I went through that process and now the city owns the two lots with the building on it. We aren't restricted by anything because we are the city."

Some citizens say that city should have built the shelter on the additional 14 acres that the Homeowners Association deeded to the city, but it would be dangerous to have the shelter there.

"The 14 acres are on the downside of the dam and we couldn't put anything there," said Morris. "It is very flood prone."

Finally, citizens of Ivanhoe are concerned that the animal control officers are only impounding purebred dog and pets so that they can make money from their adoptions. Morris and McIntyre ensure that that is not their intention.

"We have not collected one nickel from anybody," McIntyre said. "We have been open for eight to 10 weeks and we have adopted out seven or eight dogs and have not made one penny."

When dogs are adopted out to new homes, animal control will not charge an adoption fee. Instead of a fee, the animal shelter will require the new owner to spay or neuter their pets and get their required shots.

"Besides getting a rabies vaccination for their pet, this ordinance will not change Ivanhoe citizens lifestyle," McIntyre said. "They need to get a rabies vaccination once a year and keep their pet from irritating or biting neighbors."

The hearing for the new animal control ordinance will be held on October 4th at 7:00p.m in the Buck Hall Convention Center.

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