Council tackles animals

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City meets with officials to discuss concerns

By Jesef Williams

Controlling dangerous and mismanaged animals was a main focal point of Lancaster City Council’s Tuesday, July 24, meeting.
City Administrator Helen Sowell said the city has received an increased number of animal complaints in recent months and has met with officials to revisit related ordinances and practices.
Back in 1992, the city eliminated its Humane Control Department and opted to mirror Lancaster County’s existing ordinance and rely on the county’s enforcement of animal control.
Sowell said she accessed past Animal Control reports that indicated its officers conducted “roving patrols” in the city limits each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In 2006, though, those reports stopped coming, she said.
Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis and the county’s Animal Control director, Joel Hinson, spoke at City Council’s Tuesday meeting about their practices and the challenges facing Animal Control officers.
Willis said staffing is a major issue.
“I’ll be the first to admit. Animal Control is understaffed,” he said.
Hinson elaborated, as he explained changes in laws that require Animal Control officers to euthanize animals with injections versus using gas. The process is much more time-consuming, he said.
Overall, the day-to-day tasks of providing animal control for an entire county weigh heavily on a four-person team of officers, Hinson said.
“The number of calls we get in, they keep us pretty busy,” he said.
Because of that workload, Animal Control officers don’t believe they can regularly patrol the city limits with the existing manpower.
“It’s more than just about stray animals running loose,” Lancaster Police Chief Harlean Howard told City Council members. “The Animal Control officers – they’re really against the wall.”
Councilwoman Linda Blackmon-Brace spoke about a city residence that features what she sees as an exorbitant amount of dogs on its property. Noise and safety concerns are issues, she said.
“This is a problem that really needs to be addressed,” Blackmon-Brace said. “It is terrible.”
Hinson and Willis said that if and when city staff rework its ordinance, that ordinance could include a restriction on the number of pets allowed per parcel or household.
Howard said she and Sowell will continue to talk with Willis and Hinson about an ordinance and procedures that would suit the city well.
No action was taken on the matter Tuesday.
“I ask for council to be gracious and bear with us as we work on the ordinance and look to alleviate the problems,” Howard said.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at (803) 283-1152