It's been several months since the Aiken County Animal Control Advisory Board urged that the sheriff's department take control of animal code enforcement. It's about time the county council moved off the dime.
The recommendation came after a Jackson woman lost her arm in an attack by a stray pack of pit bulls more than a year ago..
Recently Sheriff Michael Hunt has been non-committal on the takeover, but in March he indicated it would be OK as long as his office, already understaffed, got the extra money and manpower to deal with it.
This only makes sense. Animal control covers, among other things, requirements for pet tags, rabies vaccinations, leashes, spaying and enforcement of anti-cruelty and abandonment ordinances.
That's a lot of law to enforce, yet the Animal Control Division is a leg of the Public Works Department, which is not a law-enforcement agency. Besides, there are only four officers on the animal control enforcement beat. Clearly, it will take more than that to do the job properly. The sheriff is right to seek more resources before agreeing to take on this extra task.
Under the advisory board's recommendation, Animal Control would stay in charge of abandoned and unwanted pets, which, sadly, includes euthanizing more than 100 of them each week. But the law-enforcement aspect of the job would be turned over to sheriff's department professionals.
Hopefully, the county council will implement the advisory panel's advice at its June meeting, and provide Sheriff Hunt with the resources he needs to get the job done. Enforcing laws to protect the public from dangerous animals should be no less a priority than other laws.
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