In some communities the animal control agency is a part of the local government, such as Walton County, where the shelter falls under the purview of Sheriff Michael Adkinson. Would such an approach work for Okaloosa County?
Sheriff Larry Ashley need not worry about finding a basket of kittens on his desk anytime soon, but the idea of animal control – at least parts of the job – becoming a county responsibility is not as far-fetched as you might think.
The Daily News interviewed District 4 County Commissioner Trey Goodwin, along with Interim Public Safety Director Stefan Vaughn and Interim Chief of Emergency Management Ken Wolfe to get their take on animal control in Okaloosa, and whether they think the county should assume more responsibility for managing its unwanted cats and dogs.
For instance, would a pet license deter the casual pet owner who might be more liable to neglect or abandon his or her pet?
“Being able to tell a pet owner that society expects you to be a responsible pet owner – I think it’s sad that we have to say that because it should be implicit,” Goodwin said. “But I don’t want to say that if Mom or Dad want to boy the kids a puppy, Okaloosa County has to say it’s OK.”
Goodwin says he favors supporting trap, neuter and release as the practice applies to controlling feral cat populations. “I would like to look into that because it is probably less expensive than it is to capture, house and either adopt out – although true feral cats can’t be adopted out. Unfortunately they have only one end and it’s an unfortunate one – it’s humane but it’s still not the best result. Prevention is better.”
Some local animal groups have said a provision in county ordinances that addresses free-roaming pets discourages them from conducting TNR operations. Goodwin said it wouldn’t be hard for the county to modify the language of that provision to allow a “commonsense program to work.”
Goodwin said the does not believe PAWS should become a county department “as PAWS,” but he does believe animal control officers should be brought under the purview of the county as either a county employee or other constitutional officer.
“I have a fundamental issue with being able to confiscate private property by non-government officials,” he said, explaining it is beneficial to have somebody wearing “a government badge” to work with law enforcement officers on worst-case scenarios, such as extreme abuse cases.