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Lack of ordinances, resources contribute to Callaway's stray animal problem

Lack of ordinances, resources contribute to Callaway's stray animal problem

March 19th, 2017 by Helen Wilbers in Local News

This friendly Great Pyrenees was one of four apparently abandoned near Mokane. Two were killed by cars, but the other two were rescued and brought to a Callaway County Humane Society foster home.

Photo by Helen Wilbers /Fulton Sun.

For two weeks, four fluffy white Great Pyrenees dogs roamed near Mokane. Two died after being struck by cars.

The other two have found temporary homes with the Callaway County Humane Society, according to Sandy Corbet, vice president of the organization.

"I've had four people confirm that those four dogs were in that spot," she said.

The two surviving dogs were covered in cockleburs and underweight. Great Pyrenees should weigh at least 130 pounds, Corbet said. These weighed about 80.

Loose dog laws nonexistent

Why didn't the dogs get help sooner? For one, Callaway County does not have animal control services. There also are not any county ordinances forbidding people from letting their dogs roam free.

"I don't see that changing for a long period," Presiding County Commissioner Gary Jungermann said.

According to Jungermann, there's never been a major push to establish animal control services at the county level. The majority of Callawegians, he believes, do not consider wayward animals a serious enough problem to justify the cost.

"It's not that we don't care, but as elected officials, we have to follow the majority," Jungermann said.

He pointed that creating an entire new county office, hiring an animal control officer, purchasing equipment and paying the officer to patrol the county would be expensive.

"We can't even patrol the county with our law enforcement," Eastern District Commissioner Randy Kleindienst said. "It's not a good road to go down."

According to Corbet, the Humane Society also has a funding problem. Without a physical location — animals are kept at foster homes — the society is ineligible for grants. It would be eligible if it either constructed a shelter, or were sponsored by a larger organization.

"I've gone to the commissioners several times over the years about possibly (constructing) a shelter, or at least helping us financially," Corbet said. "We asked for $100 a month and they wouldn't do it."

Kleindienst also said citizens out in the country who are used to letting their dogs roam loose would bristle at being told to keep their pets restrained.

"People in the county don't want a bunch of ordinances," Kleindienst said.

The Callaway County Sheriff's Office will respond to calls about vicious animals, Jungermann added.

"We don't have any kind of formal animal control," Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism said. "If we receive a call where it's apparent law enforcement is needed, I would expect the deputies to respond. But once we get there, our hands are many times tied because of the lack of any county animal control and animal control resources."

Chism said in 2016, the department investigated 134 animal complaints — which includes many free-roaming dogs. They also performed 57 animal welfare checks after citizens reported potentially mistreated animals.

"It's very taxing on our limited resources," Chism said.

In Fulton, the Sam and Daisy Grabb Animal Shelter is the official city-funded pound. Animal Control Supervisor Tina Barnes said it receives about 50 calls each week for all kinds of animals, not just dogs.

"Many of them are from (farther) out in the county," Barnes said.

Within city limits, the animal shelter impounds stray animals. Police officers in Holts Summit will do the same. But those calling from outside city limits are out of luck, unless the humane society or Callaway Hills Animal Shelter has space.

"Callaway County has an issue with stray animals, animals running at large and being dumped," Barnes said.

In Boone County, there are ordinances forbidding dogs from roaming at large. In addition, their commissioners established a five-man Vicious and Nuisance Dog Advisory Board. The board assesses whether dogs that have been reported to animal control are nuisance animals.

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Owners of nuisance dogs — which are those that habitual roam free and harass people, vehicles or other animals —must acquire a special permit and keep the animal confined to their property.

Cole County also has animal control officers. Of course, Cole and Boone counties have larger populations, a smaller area and higher median household income than more-rural Callaway.

"When I was growing it up, it wasn't uncommon for the neighbor's dog to go jogging by," Jungermann said.

As Corbet pointed out, dogs don't know where a property's boundaries are.

"Put up some kind of cattle panels or other fencing so that when you can't watch them, you can still keep them safe," Corbet said.

She worries about her own dogs getting out and being shot.

"That's always the risk that I want to tell people — besides cars and disease, someone's going to shoot them," Corbet said.

She also encourages people to spay and neuter their dogs, as that curbs their desire to roam and keeps them from producing potentially unwanted puppies.