This happy pup runs around for a past photo. The Liberal City Commission continued discussions of recently passed Animal Control ordinances at its most recent meeting after multiple comments from citizens in the community. L&T photo/Hayley Grimm

ELLY GRIMM

    • Leader & Times

 

Stray animals throughout Liberal and responsible pet ownership have been a hot topic in the community and recently, more ideas were shared regarding potential solutions to the issue.

“I’ve had numerous concerns and phone calls and emails from people in the community who are not happy with the new ordinance,” Liberal City Commissioner Janeth Vazquez said. “The biggest complaint I get is how the people who are going to follow the laws are pretty much the only ones who will follow through with it, and the people who typically don’t do so aren’t going to obey this. I wanted to bring it up because I’m wondering if this is something we maybe need to have a work session over to see what we can do. As a pet owner myself, I think it’s a little absurd to have a yearly registration fee, and I’ve had people who work at different companies who aren’t able to get off work during regular hours to go in and register their pet, so they would need to take some time off just to get that done. I feel like the yearly fee is a little excessive. I don’t know if we could maybe change that to every two or three years, but I have been bombarded with calls and emails and everything else, and I’ve had people in the community who have flat out told me they’re not going to follow this ordinance.”

“Two days ago or so, I opened up my garage and was met by a very big dog, and my own pet was absolutely not a happy camper,” Liberal City Commissioner Matt Landry added. “They didn’t look like dogs that were from the wild, they seemed to belong to someone. And you see people around this time of the year who are out running or walking or getting some other exercise, and they’ve got their children out and about. I’ve got a 6-year-old daughter, and if I’m doing something and she’s out of my sight for even just a moment, and one of these strange dogs came up, that could turn into a bad situation. Going with the point about people saying ‘Well, I just won’t obey the ordinance,’ I would say it’s the same with speed limits because you can choose to not follow it, but there’s repercussions for that. But something needs to be done, because it’s getting out of hand.”

“I’m definitely fine with talking about this more because I do think we need to do something, because it is a problem,” Liberal Vice Mayor Jeff Parsons added. “I have a similar story to Matt’s that happened last week, we had a police officer at the house because we had a vicious dog that went after both me and my wife. I don’t see the problem getting better.  You always end up inconveniencing someone, especially the people who follow the rules. But we do need to get a handle on this issue, whether that’s by discussing lowering the fees or eliminating them, or whatever.”

Liberal Mayor Jose Lara then invited Animal Control officials to speak.

“With the registrations, I know part of the reason for the yearly proposal was because of some of the required yearly vaccines, and that would help you guys keep track of all of that,” Lara said. “Can you clarify that more?”

“From my understanding, some people’s main concern is the fee. It’s $10 if you have your animal spayed/neutered, which should be done given how many kittens and puppies we pick up,” Liberal Animal Shelter Director Tara Logan said. “That’s not very much money at all in the grand scheme of owning a pet. I understand there’s that concern about the fee, and I get that, but it’s not astronomical. It’s $10 a year, and you’d pay way, way more for the rabies and other shots that are required to register it so we have healthy animals if they’re out. How many dog bites have we had this year? Quite a few. How many of them have had their rabies shots? A very few. We’re wanting to encourage people to be responsible pet owners.”

“At this point, is there still no partnership we can develop with at least the two veterinarians we have in town where they could update that system in any way, shape or form?” Lara asked. “I.e. when people get their pets vaccinated, there’s a connection between everyone?”

“I’ve never actually asked them for that,” Logan said. “We could try that, and we could ask them if that’s something they’d be interested in, but it’s still mostly the same thing because you still have to vaccinate the animal in order to get the tag. I would need to have the bill from the vet with the tag showing that’s been done.”

“Is there any option of doing this online?” Vazquez asked.

“That’s something I have looked into,” Logan said. “I just went to San Antonio for the Animal Care Expo, and I spoke to a few vendors there. That is something I’m trying to figure out and see if there’s an option that’s cost-effective and usable for us. And the shelter’s also not just open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., we’re open until 6 p.m., so even if you don’t get off work until 5 p.m., that’s still a decent amount of time, and we’re not that far out of town. We’re open on Saturdays by appointment only right now since I’m down to two Animal Control Officers, but once I get to full staff, we’ll be open Saturdays too. And I did just hire two people who will be starting this coming Monday, they’ll be doing their training and everything else, so hopefully within the next couple months, we’ll be back to being open seven days a week.”

Parsons reiterated the potential of partnering with local veterinarians.

“I feel like the local veterinarians would be a great help with this,” Parsons said. “I also know we’re looking into putting together a dog park, and you can’t take animals to a park that aren’t vaccinated. It’s a huge problem in this town, the unvaccinated animals. We’re having to adjust the way we’re living because of all these stray animals and how much of a problem they can be, and to me, that’s unacceptable, and we need to do something about it.”

“Absolutely. Out of all the animals we pick up, very, very few of them are vaccinated,” Logan said. “I always say, if you’re going to have a pet, be responsible about it because if you’re not, then that poor animal will become OUR problem at some point, and it can be easily avoided. In the long run, we have to do what’s best for the entire community, not just a few people who don’t want to pay. We’re working hard with this, and we want everyone to be responsible for their pets.”

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