The number of citations given to pet owners is down more than 40 percent. It’s a drastic drop compared to the last year when Mayor Richard Berry was in office.
The city’s Animal Welfare Department said it’s trying a new approach. Instead of writing citations, officers are giving pet owners options.
With more than 30,000 calls a year, there are only 18 Animal Control officers to take those calls.
When Mayor Tim Keller took office, he said the Animal Welfare Department was in need of serious improvement. So what’s changed?
In 2017, former Mayor Richard Berry’s last year in office, Animal Control officers issued 1,285 citations to pet owners. Compare that to Mayor Keller’s first year in office. In 2018, just over 700 citations were issued.
The department said it’s taking a different approach to some of the calls they respond to often: like pets that are not spayed or neutered. In some cases, the city said it will offer vouchers rather than cite the pet owner.
But don’t think irresponsible pet owners are getting off that easy.
“There are definitely situations where a criminal citation is always going to be warranted,” Chief of Field Operations Adam Ricci said.
Last month, officers cited a man for nearly a dozen violations for planning to sell a litter of puppies without a permit. They also found the puppies’ mother with an injured leg that hadn’t been treated after the owner said a “car part fell on her.”
Another resident was cited days later for animal cruelty after a neighbor told officers she had a video of the man throwing rocks at his dog.
“We’re not saying that we’re not going to be out there in full force when we need to be but what we’re looking at is some of the different situations where maybe we have the ability to provide another resource to these folks,” Ricci said.
Some of those options include giving dog houses to homeowners who can’t afford them, and helping fix fences so dogs will quit escaping.
“There’s always a presumption that this animal isn’t cared for and that’s not the case in a lot of these,” Ricci said.
For the last six months, the department said it’s been working to clear a backlog of more than 2,300 calls. Calls for service that were waiting for a response or some type of follow-up from Animal Welfare.
We’ve actually been able to eliminate that backlog to the point where officers are responding to calls the same day now,” Ricci said.
For now, the city said it’s crunching the numbers to see if this new approach is working.