After only three years of animal control in Smith County, the problem of what to do with stray animals could be out of control again. County commissioners and the Humane Society are at odds over their contract, and the result will leave Smith County residents unable to drop off stray animals without paying a fee.
At issue is an increase of about 25 thousand dollars, a seven seven dollar increase on each of the twelve thousand animals the Humane Society takes in every year. Both sides say the issue is a matter of business right now.
County Commissioner Gus Ramirez says, "My deal is to try to settle this, to negotiate this, bring it back in the next commissioner's meeting. Negotiate it and try to extend it, get a thirty day contract, an extension of the original contract that's in place now."
"It is a serious issue but it's also a business decision," Humane Society Executive Director Gayle Helms explains. "We can't operate with a deficit for all these animals that are coming into the shelter. Someone's going to have to pay for that service that we provide."
Some worry the loose animal problem could become serious, and they worry the result of this fee could be stray animals running wild in rural neighborhoods without the resources of the Humane Society.
Smith County resident Pat Leeson has been an animal lover her whole life but her adopted family got a lot bigger this year. Her adopted dog Shadow delivered a dozen puppies on Pat's birthday, which left her with a lot of mouths to feed.
"There was no way I was going to get rid of her," Leeson said, "So we just have to do the best we could do. Take care of them, find good homes for them."
So Pat is giving away these pups. After October first, her options become limited since she won't have the option of taking them to the Humane Society without paying. Doing the right thing with her dogs will cost her.
"If it comes down to it, we could pay that," she said, "But I don't understand why they do it for the city and not for the county."
Pat has seen first hand the animal control program working. A few years ago, her neighborhood was overrun with loose dogs to the point of danger. She explains, "One day my husband was taking shadow for a walk down this street and four dogs attacked him and her, and jumped on her."
She says thanks to the program, her neighborhood is safe again. Pat takes care of her animals, but she knows others in the county may not. "When it's like that, more people can't afford to take their dogs in so they're gonna dump them."