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Second officer needed for animal control

My Opinion
Alan Stewart, Staff Writer

In 1976, the late H. Bruce Walker wrote in The Corydon Democrat: ‘Members of the Dog Control and Animal Shelter Committee, at its first meeting last Tuesday night in the courthouse, heard some hard figures on the cost of a dog pound and the legal complications of pickup and disposing of dogs.’
Nearly 30 years later, in 2005, at a cost of about $550,000, Harrison County opened a state-of-the-art facility in the Harrison County Industrial Park. Its first animal control officer was Mike Gentry, who was seriously injured in an automobile crash a few years later and had to give up the position. Gentry said 24 animals were taken in the first hour the facility was officially open, and, in less than a week, more than 78 animals had been taken in.
Bruce LaHue, who succeeded Gentry, said that in his first full year of service, in 2008, the facility took in 2,284 animals, with 62 percent being felines. In 2009, 48 percent of the 2,980 animals taken in were cats, and, last year, 3,189 animals were taken in, with 64 percent being canines. In August 2010 alone, 327 animals were brought in. This year’s numbers are slightly above last year’s pace, with 373 animals being brought in as of March of this year. Of those, 74 percent were dogs.
At a commissioner’s meeting last week, two people spoke on behalf of LaHue, who told the commissioners that he needs help to keep up with the increasing number of calls for service he receives. LaHue suggested the creation of a committee to look into the matter.
Just like the many committees created to decide whether or not another bridge was needed in Louisville (duh), this committee would be a complete waste of time. Anyone who can’t, or doesn’t, see that the county needs a second full-time animal control officer has never visited the county’s animal shelter or is blind to the facts or has some sort of hidden agenda.
As LaHue pointed out at the commissioners’ meeting, the county was put in a difficult position after Gentry’s crash and had to scramble to find a replacement animal control officer. Considering how calls for service and the number of animals taken in have steadily increased, not having some sort of viable backup for LaHue is borderline irresponsible by our county leaders.
LaHue has been hammered by some in our Live Wire for what folks basically say is his incompetence and inability to do his job because he doesn’t respond to calls in a timely matter. Calls for service are ranked in order of priority, and, if a call in Palmyra is followed by a run to Elizabeth, there’s not only going to be travel time to consider, but also the time it takes to complete a run. By the time he arrives to a scene, a dog digging in the trash has probably moved on or is back home and nowhere to be found. That’s not LaHue’s fault. A second animal control officer would help alleviate some of LaHue’s workload and help serve the public in a more timely matter to remove at-large animals and respond to bite complaints.
Yes, in addition to five part-time employees, there’s already another full-time employee at animal control, but she takes care of office work, adoptions, euthanasia and other general work in the building so LaHue can be on the road. The part-timers do much of the dirty work inside the kennels and keep the facility looking and smelling clean.
The biggest hurdle the county will have to overcome is deciding where the additional funding for the third full-time position is going to come from. If there’s a committee formed, its primary focus should be on figuring out the dollars and cents to make a second animal control officer position a reality.