EDGEFIELD, S.C. - County Administrator Wayne Adams has asked the county's litter control officer to patrol the streets, picking up stray animals instead of trash.
Since Tim Davis' dog-catching truck was rear-ended nearly a month ago, injuring the animal control officer, no one has been collecting strays in the county, Mr. Adams said Monday.
Numerous complaints of mangy animals roaming the Wells Road area in Edgefield, the Capers Lake area in Merriwether and in Johnston have prompted the administrator to temporarily replace Mr. Davis.
"Beginning Wednesday, the litter control officer will be pulled off his normal duties to work with the sheriff's office to help catch stray animals," Mr. Adams said. "We know we have problems in several areas of the county. Our priority over the next few weeks is to address them."
The Edgefield County Sheriff's Office receives at least 35 complaints of stray animals per month, Capt. Beverly Shields said. With Mr. Davis at home suffering neck and back injuries, no one has been able to do anything about the complaints, she said.
The only dog catching in the county in the past month has been done by residents, said Sandy Larsen, a veterinary technician with the Aiken County Animal Control Shelter.
Because Edgefield County doesn't have a shelter, its animal control officer must drive to Aiken County to drop off the animals. The county has had a contract with the Aiken shelter for five years.
"Since Mr. Davis has been gone, only 28 animals have been brought in from Edgefield," Mrs. Larsen said. "When he works, he usually brings in about 50 to 65 per month."
The shelter euthanizes 400 to 600 stray animals a month - mostly cats and dogs, Mrs. Larsen said. Only about 40 are adopted during that time. The shelter's capacity is about 100, she said.
"A lot of the dogs brought in from Edgefield are euthanized because we get so many that are mangy, bloody and hairless," Mrs. Larsen said. "Chances are that no one's going to claim them."
Aiken County Administrator Bill Shepherd said the two counties have an agreement that if Edgefield County's stray population imposes on the Aiken shelter, it will not accept more animals. He said they haven't had concerns yet.
Mr. Adams said the county's animal control problems are growing.
"Edgefield County did the right thing by getting into the animal control business," he said. "But over time, the need has escalated, and the question is how to handle the problem."
For the year ending June 30, the county has spent nearly 45 percent more than the year before to send its animals to Aiken County, Mr. Adams said. For 1999-2000, the county paid $40,490, compared to $27,670 the year before, he said.
"Apparently, we need more than one (animal control) person doing the job," Mr. Adams said. "And over time, we'll need our own facility or we'll need to share the costs with two other counties. ... But in any case, it won't be cheap."
When the Tri-County Solid Waste Authority met earlier this month, its board members asked the staff to look into the possibility of creating a three-county animal control division that Edgefield would share with Saluda and McCormick counties.
If the waste authority continues to be successful, the counties want to expand the garbage and recycling business to include other services, Mr. Adams said.
The idea was discussed six years ago, but Saluda and McCormick counties were not in favor of the shelter, Mr. Adams said.
"The time is coming to do something on a larger scale," Mr. Adams said.
Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.