Update for December 18, 2014

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City adding second animal control officer

By William Hoover
Anvil Herald Correspondent

Hondo City Council on Monday approved spending $65,000 to hire a second Animal Control officer and to acquire two gently used trucks with kennel units to effectively double the capability of the department. Council took the action just weeks after residents complained about the number of loose and unattended animals roaming the streets of the city.

Chief of Police Johnny Martinez reminded council a workshop had been held in November in response to concerns expressed by residents.

“Our animal control officer (Kristalee Campbell) is continuing to make great strides in her efforts to address these concerns by hosting several adoption clinics along with spay and neuter programs,” he said. “But we continue to have the same issue with animals running at-large.”

Council discussed several ideas to address the problems but the major issue was a lack of manpower, with just one animal control officer and seven days in the week, according to Martinez.

To address the issue, Martinez said he and City Manager Jeff Litchfield recommended hiring a second animal control officer for around $40,000 a year and equipping the department with a second truck.

“That second animal control officer would expand our coverage to include weekends,” he said. “The existing truck is undesirable and has been expensive to repair.”

Martinez said he found two used Ford F-150 pickups for around $12,000 each he wanted council to buy as new Animal Control trucks. The Medina County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to give the city one kennel unit off of the two new trucks and kennel units they are buying.

“This will save the city about $5,000,” he said. “Those kennel boxes are very expensive. We will be using the old one on the current truck as well.”

The city is also moving forward with planning to improve and enlarge the current 12-kennel animal shelter to accommodate more stray animals.

“We are looking at additional garage door type walls on the north and south sides to block the cold weather and wind,” he said. “We are contemplating adding another six kennel units. If needed, we could double that to 12 but we have to be careful because the state doesn’t recommend that.”

“We are also looking into the use of volunteer programs,” added Martinez. “Our animal control officer is currently looking at the programs other cities have.”

Mayor Jim Danner asked the police chief if the second animal control truck would help curtail the current problem with roaming, unrestrained animals.

“We continue to try to educate people,” said Martinez. “Within the last year and a half, we have had people fill out a application when they adopt an animal to determine if they have fencing and can secure the animal in their yard. We modeled that on the San Antonio Humane Society’s four-page application.”

“I don’t know that we will ever curtail the problem, but the truck will help some,” he said of roaming stray animals. “Even though we have a spay and neuter program, citizens of the county continue to dump dogs in the city, especially out at the cemetery.”

Council made Martinez’s recommendation a reality by approving a budget amendment funding the two truck purchases and the salary for the new animal control officer. Only $30,000 would be needed to pay the new officer’s salary through the end of the fiscal year 2014-15, according to the city manager.

“We are doubling the size of our animal control force,” said Litchfield on Tuesday. “We are going from one full-time animal control officer to two. One officer can only work five days for eight hours a day. The additional coverage is going to really help us monitor and address the animals who are running loose.”

“To support that, we also needed to purchase a second vehicle,” he said. “We also approved the replacement of the existing vehicle. It was in bad shape and cost $4,000 to repair last year. Moving forward, we will be coming back with a plan on how to expand the existing shelter to make it larger and to tighten it up so it won’t be so cold in winter.”

“We are also exploring a volunteer program where folks in the community can volunteer to help out animal control,” he added.



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