Now that fall has begun, animal services officers hope to get a break from the high number of calls they see each summer.
“Our call volume goes up tremendously during the summertime,” said Sharon Broady, the director of animal services in Richmond County.
That pattern is seen in Columbia and Aiken counties, too.
Richmond County averaged about 950 calls about animals each month this summer. Aiken County saw about 500.
“This time this year it was raining, so it wasn’t too bad,” Edward Jefferson, the field operations manager in Richmond County, said of the calls that some months reached more than 1,000.
June and July were the worst months in Richmond County, while Aiken County’s numbers started increasing in May and are still high.
Calls normally begin to drop in the fall, but last year Aiken County’s numbers remained higher than normal because of a milder and more pleasant winter.
With a limited number of officers in Richmond and Aiken, officers find themselves having to prioritize the complaints.
Vicious animals usually come first, said Bobby Arthurs, the chief enforcement officer in Aiken County. Those calls are followed by dog bites, dangerous animals and cruelty.
Aiken County has four officers in the field full time. Richmond County has seven, but only about four will be on the road simultaneously.
Columbia County also sees an increase in calls, but it’s not so much that the officers can’t respond quickly.
“We’re blessed here in Columbia County,” said Daniel Mayne, the operations manager.
Officials said the majority of the extra calls comes from the increase of people outdoors. Jefferson said it’s not that activities are going on that aren’t going on the wintertime; it’s just that people become more aware.
Arthurs also attributed the increase to animal breeding season.
Only a small percentage of the calls involve animal abuse complaints. Since the year began, Richmond County has responded to 569 cases involving animal abuse.
“The most serious cases we get are where a dog is left outside and is starving to death,” Jefferson said.
Those cases aren’t too common. Generally, the pet owner hasn’t provided enough food, water and coverage from the sun.
Only 12 people have been sent to court in Richmond County this year out of the 569 cases for suspected animal abuse. About 63 percent of the cases were validated, but Jefferson said almost all pet owners have reversed their bad behavior when officers return for a checkup.
Hot cars also result in an increase of summertime calls. All counties said that most often the vehicles are gone by the time they arrive. Aiken and Columbia counties already had ordinances in place regarding hot cars, but Richmond County’s went into effect June 27.
The new ordinance says an animal officer has the right to break out a window of the vehicle if the animal has been left inside when the outside temperature is above 80 degrees or below 32. The animal will be taken to a vet at the expense of the owner, who will also face a citation.
That is one of several animal safety concerns Richmond County officials have been looking at.
“The city ordinances were 40 years old and needed revising,” Broady said.
Other considerations include adding ordinances about animals traveling in the bed of a truck, tethering and animal waste removal.