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Macon seeks solution to animal woes

By Jennifer Garlesky • Staff Writer

Dealing with stray dogs and cats has been a problem for Macon County officials for some time now, Sheriff Robbie Holland said.

The county animal control officer positions were eliminated several years ago because the county was lacking an animal control ordinance. Residents would call the animal control officers and complain about a nuisance animal but no one had the authority to deal with these animals, Holland said.

“We were acting under good faith that when people called in and had a problem, we had no legal right to pick them up,” he said.

But county officials are now addressing this problem. County commissioners are reviewing a proposed ordinance drafted by Holland and members of the county’s animal control committee.

“Its just a bare bones ordinance,” County Commissioner Bob Simpson said.

Under the proposal, all animals must wear a collar containing identification information or have a microchip and be up to date on all required vaccinations. The ordinance gives the county permission to pick up animals that do not have tags or a microchip and take them to the county’s animal shelter. The ordinance will also be enforced on a complaint basis, Simpson added.

But even though county leaders are taking a proactive approach to animal control, there is still one major problem — the county has no place to take the animals.

Macon County is not only lacking an animal control ordinance but also an animal shelter. County officials are currently working on securing a piece of land by the county’s landfill to build a shelter. It will cost about $350,000 and, if plans go accordingly, the shelter will be open by July 2008, Simpson said.

The animal ordinance will not take effect until the building is constructed, Simpson said.

The county’s laid-back approach to solving its stray animal problem has people like Jan Meinders, president of Macon County’s Humane Society, concerned.

“When it’s not in effect, what’s going to happen to the animals of Macon County?” he said.

But Meinders does support the county’s effort to mange the stray animal population.

“What ever they do is good for the animals,” he said.

The spay & neuter program

Macon County’s animal control ordinance features a few additions that nearby counties did not include in their regulations. Macon’s animal control ordinance sets up a five-member board to oversee shelter operations. It also mandates that the county fund and operate a spay and neuter program. The program will have a budget of $25,000, and commissioners are hoping it will decrease the number of stray animals.

“We have a lot of strays, and the problem is that people are not taking care of their animals,” Simpson said.

Two years ago the county funded the spay and neuter program but it was only implemented for one year. The animal control ordinance will make the program official and it will be funded each year, Simpson explained.

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