Frustrated residents, animal rescues demand change at Smith County Animal Control

County judge suggests policy changes
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Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 6:57 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2022 at 10:04 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The Smith County Commissioners Court heard passionate pleas Tuesday morning from several community members concerned about Smith County Animal Control.

“We need change now,” said one woman during public comment.

Frustrated residents and those who work and run local animal rescue operations voiced their concerns to the county judge and commissioners.

“The current administration at the shelter has lost support of many rescues because they’ve become combative and are not fostering good public relations,” said Kat Cortelyou, Director of Operations for the SPCA of East Texas.

SPCA of East Texas President & Founder Deborah Dobbs was among the people who spoke. Her concerns include understaffing, unused shelter space, limited shelter hours, and a controversial stray dog policy.

“This department turns away all public attempts to surrender stray dogs,” Dobbs said. “The policy now is if you fed it, watered it or put it in your car -- it’s yours.”

“Taxpayers are being punished for doing something kind and humane, like rescuing a dog from a busy intersection or a dog that has been dumped in their road,” said Cortelyou.

“That’s just insanity in my opinion,” said Pct. 2 commissioner Cary Nix during a later discussion about the policy. “I mean, we’ve got to change that policy.”

Comments from community members came before budget talks in which commissioners heard from Amber Greene, the county’s animal control supervisor. Among Greene’s requests for the upcoming budget: an additional employee.

“I’m asking for a full-time kennel tech position,” Greene said. “With the increase of intakes, the additional help is needed to help clean the kennels and to intake dogs in the afternoon.”

Following Greene’s presentation, Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran noted the animal control department had only used 89-percent of its budget last year. Moran said while he’s on board with more money for things like animal medical services, he is not supportive of the request for another employee.

“There’s a solution to be found on a number of those items,” Moran told Greene. “It’s not just about money or personnel. You’re gonna have to make some changes to the operations.”

Moran’s recommendations include opening the shelter on Saturdays and closing it on Mondays, a day considered to be slow for animal rescues. He also wants to revive the shelter’s use of jail trusty labor.

“Not to put you on the hot seat,” Moran said to Greene. “But I do want the public to understand that we are going to support you in a reasonable manner to get the job done that you need done. You’re not going to get everything you want. Nobody gets everything they want. But we’re willing to take those requests, and the last three or four budget cycles have not had a major request to move forward with items that are now presented as though we just weren’t willing to do that. And that is just not the case. "

Tuesday’s budget discussion marked the county’s final budget workshop of the year. Moran will file a proposed budget with the county clerk in August. The proposed budget will then be voted on during the Sept. 6 meeting of the Smith County Commissioners Court.

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+ Smith County commissioners hear concerns over lack of animal control funding, manpower

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