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Animal control concerns voiced to commissioners

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STAFF REPORT
The Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE - County citizens asked Ellis County commissioners' to reinstate what they perceived to be a rescinded leash law, citing an animal over-population problem continuing to grow as the county's human population grows.

At Monday's regular meeting the Commissioners' Court, brought members of the court and citizens alike a little closer to understanding the issue.

'I've spent much time on the telephone talking with Ms. (Kennette) Davis and some of the other people,' said Commissioner Bill Dodson, pct. 2.

'She and I discussed this at length. Some areas we agree on, some areas we do not, but I think it is well worth the commissioners' time to hear her concerns.'

'In 2006, September, October and November, Ellis County brought in 492 stray animals,' said Dana White of the Ellis County SPCA.

'This year, they brought in 182.

'That's a difference of 310. Let's say half of those live and are not hit by a car or eaten by
a coyote - that's 155.

'Half of those are female - that's 77. Each has six babies, and we are back up to 462 animals. It's going backwards.'

White noted the county could expect to see an increase in the number of coyotes and bobcats as well if stray and abandoned dogs are not picked up.

'If you increase their food supply, they will increase production,' White said.

Assistant County Attorney Lee Auvenshine clarified the Court's action of Sept. 10, as an amendment to the animal control ordinance, rather than a case of having rescinded an existing leash law.

'Ellis County has never had a leash law - this court doesn't have the authority to do that,' said Auvenshine.

Commissioner Heath Sims, pct. 2, noted Texas Health and Safety Code, Subchapter C, paragraph 822 details the steps for creating an ordinance requiring registration of pets.

'It's petitions and the Court then would ask for an election,' Sims said. 'If it passes, then the Treasurer would be given the authority to go out and buy the tags.'

Sims also highlighted the fact citizens must pay in order to leave animals at the SPCA animal shelter, whether they are surrendering their own animals or trying to help animals that may have been abandoned on their property.

'Until there's a place for people to bring those animals at no cost - and that is not the taxpayers' responsibility to pay to get those dogs,' Sims said.

'Until you are able to say yes we can (accept the animals) - how do you get to that point? How do you at the SPCA get to that point?'

White said the SPCA was looking for grant funding, and SPCA Board Member Bob Mahlstedt said the organization was also working on outreach programs to encourage new citizens to become SPCA members and to consider micro-chipping their pets for identification.

'This would solve a lot of problems - if we could identify them,' Mahlstedt said.

Citizens cited a variety of problems caused by stray or abandoned animals. One woman said she was attacked by a pit bull inside the Waxahachie city limits, while another made reference to a severe local problem with illegal dog fighting.

An Ennis area rancher asked the members of the Court to look at photos showing what wild dogs had done to one of his cows. Another citizen noted that abandoned animals will stay in one place for up to a week after being dropped off, expecting the person that left them to come back.

'When they realize they are starving, they will move,' she said. 'They are so hungry and scared, they are aggressive, and they will attack you even if they've been a really good dog all their life.'

'There are a lot of misconceptions out there on stray animals and nuisance animals, not just in Ellis County but throughout the area,' said Dodson. 'It's a no win situation. It's something we need to look into - I don't have a good answer for it.'

In other business, Commissioners:
• Rescinded the Ellis County Burn Ban enacted on Nov. 13, and took no action on a request to restrict the sale of certain fireworks;
• Heard an update from representatives of the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority with regard to strategic planning for mental health;
• Approved a work order under an existing interlocal agreement with the City of Alma;
• Approved renewal of the contract with Comtex for maintenance and repair services on the County's radio towers and dispatch equipment;
• Approved a Joint Resolution for a Joint (Republican and Democratic) Primary for the March 4, 2008 Primary Election as prescribed by the Secretary of State in order to reduce the number of election workers and voting machines needed to hold the primary;
• Approved billing the City of Midlothian the amount of $4,670.02 for its local option election held on Nov. 6;
• Declined to increase the County's mileage reimbursement figure from 48.5-cents per mile to 50.5-cents per mile as changed by the Internal Revenue Service;
• Took no action on a proposed Clean Fleet Vehicle Ordinance;
• Reappointed Garry Harris, Norquist Wade, and Don Frisbee to Maypearl ESD #1; Jackie Dwayne Cate to Italy ESD #3; Paul W. Jones and Eddie Minor to Ferris ESD #5; Billie Tom Fulton and Ricky Sparkman to Bristol ESD #7; Tom Manning, Ronnie Russell, and Frank Hazzard to Midlothian ESD #2; Andy Lancaster and Ernie Martinek to Red Oak ESD #4; James Self and Jimmy Roy to Waxahachie ESD #6; and Dave Bundrick, Debbie Scruggs, and Teaner Johnson to Avalon ESD #8;
• Accepted the resignation of Thomas Leyfield from the Palmer ESD #9 and appointed Kenny Caldwell to fill Leyfield's unexpired term;
• Authorized payment in an amount up to $500 to Loretta Harper for repairs to a vehicle owned by her which was allegedly damaged by an employee of Ellis County during the course of his employment on or about Nov. 6, in exchange for a full release of all claims against Ellis County related thereto;
• Authorized payment in the amount of $637.65 ($476 in overpayment of fines and court costs and $161.65 settlement) to Travis Matthew Tull for settlement of a potential claim against Ellis County for a cause of action arising on Nov. 12,;
• Awarded the 2008 annual requirement for lightweight road surfacing aggregate to TXI;
• Awarded the 2008 annual requirement for metal culverts for all precincts to Contech Construction Products in Irving, Texas;
• Awarded the 2008 annual requirement for printing services to Office Depot as the primary supplier and Marfield Printing as the secondary supplier;
• Awarded the 2008 annual requirement for recycled concrete flex base to Big City Crushed Concrete;
• Awarded the 2008 annual requirement for convenience store gas to Colwell Oil Company and to Pearman Oil Company;
• Awarded the 2008 annual requirement for wholesale gas and diesel for all precincts to Avenue Fuel Distributors in Ennis, Texas as the primary supplier and Colwell Oil Company as the secondary supplier.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Ellis County Commissioners' Court is Friday, Dec. 21 at 10 a.m., varying from the usual scheduling due to the holiday.

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