Animal control lacks bodies
Despite months of work by the Leash Law Task Force, any changes to the leash laws in Summit County have rolled to a stop.
Not enough people to enforce the leash laws or other parts of the animal control ordinance.
At June 16’s weekly Summit County Council meeting, the council members discussed beefing up the leash laws. But Director of Animal Control politely Brian Bellamy politely but firmly told the council members, "We cannot do this if we don’t staff up." He added, "We’re not providing the service we should be providing."
The numbers tell the story.
In 2005, there were 8 full-time staffers in the animal control department in Summit County: one administrator, one field supervisor, four animal control officers and two shelter attendants. Between 2006 and 2010 there were five animal control officers.
But today, there are only 5 full-time staffers: one field supervisor, three animal control officers, and one shelter attendant.
In addition, in 2012, the administrator’s position was axed, so Bellamy, director of personnel, was tasked with becoming the head of yet another department: animal control. He is now doing the jobs of two full-time positions, without the paycheck of two full-time positions.
"I’m blessed with work," he said diplomatically.
The reason for the decrease in animal control enforcement is something that counties across the country had to face in the latter years of the last decade. "The economy really turned south, and as a county we are very financially responsive," said Bellamy, who as director of personnel was intimately aware of the situation. "We had to lay off employees."
Although she kept her job — a job she had now had for 20 years — Delores Ovard was forced to make do with those cuts. As the animal control department’s field supervisor, she still does many of the jobs that department administrators, animal control officers, and shelter attendants have to do. "It’s really tight right now," she said.
"We are doing the best we can do," Ovard, although she admitted that the department’s goal of resolving every matter within 24 hours is often not met. "We do try to get to all of the calls when they come in, but we do have to prioritize."
One duty the department cannot do at this point in time is do routine patrols of neighborhoods, dog parks and trails. Most of the animal control officers’ time, especially in the summer, is devoted to responding to calls of barking dogs or stray wild animals.
"Some days we’ll get 14 calls," Ovard said. "It’s lot more than picking up dogs."
Bellamy plans on asking for funding for two more staffers in the animal control department when department heads’ budget requests are solicited by the County Manager later this summer. But even if they are authorized, they wouldn’t be added to the department until January of 2015 at the earliest, after the new budget year begins.
Bellamy is optimistic that council members will be receptive to the need. "It looks like I’ve been given the nod [to hire more]," he said.
Council chair Chris Robinson said that although he hasn’t seen other budget recommendations yet, "based on what we know now, I think the consensus if that we need more animal control."
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.