It's been raining. A lot. And more is apparently on the way. And because of this we are even more inundated with neglect calls. These on top of our already backlog of calls. Everyone is doing the best that they can to keep up with the demand for service. Apparently that has not been good enough for some members of the pubic, who are constantly threatening to "speak to a supervisor" "call the media" "call the county board." I say go ahead.
Hear's the deal. While you (Jane or Joe Public) perceive, let's say, horses standing ankle deep in mud as neglect and demand immediate response, there are several calls for injured cats and dogs, hit by cars because a fence blew down, gate blew open, or tree fell on fence. Or there are dogs running loose chasing people because they are free due to the above reasons and don't know how to act in public. OR your call is the 20th or 30th in a long line of lower priority calls.
But you DEMAND immediate response! These horses are suffering. And if we don't get out there and do something IMMEDIATELY you're going to tattle to the media, supervisors or whoever else will listen. You're going to write several "strongly" worded letters and email them to us demanding satisfaction for your complaint.
Here are some things to take into consideration. Our county has roughly 1.4 million residents. Did you know that? And of these I would say 1 out of at least 3 has at least 1 pet. Also there are 995 square miles of this county. In busy seasons past, we had 2-3 Animal Control Officers (ACOs) in the north side of the county and 2-3 in the south side. Now we have only 2 maybe 3 covering the entire county. We also used to have 2 Swing shift ACOs. One for the north and one for the south. Now we only have ONE for the entire county.
Our phones are non-stop with calls coming in, 24 hours a day.
We try to get to the highest priorities as quickly as possible. It's hard enough when you're on one side of the county within a couple miles of a priority call and you get another priority call on the complete other side of the county that you know, even if you turn around RIGHT NOW it's going to take you over an hour to get there, and that's if traffic is cooperative. And you also already have 7 other priorities throughout the county waiting to be done. Then you get a lower priority call that you are told must be worked due to the complainant has or will call media etc...And chances are even if we do drop everything and go do this call they will complain ANYWAY. Very frustrating and discouraging. What makes it even MORE frustrating is the calls like this are 90% likely to be unfounded.
We are getting lots of calls for horses standing in mud and with no shelter. Please realize this: Our county is located in a HUGE VALLEY with one major river running through it along with several other large rivers. It's prone to standing water and every few years, flooding.
Horses are silly creatures. I know. I have three myself. Right now they are called "mud-beasts." My horses, like most in this county are standing in mud. The back portion of their pasture as well as my neighbor's pasture (which he lets me open the fence and use) has only about an inch or two of mud and a little grass left. It's our "high ground." But my silly mud beasts like to stand at the gate to watch the house so they know when they are going to get fed. This churns up the mud in front of my gate and barn. It's about 4-6 inches deep. I also have a three-stall barn. Of the three beasts, one refuses to go in unless she is eating. She will stand out in the freezing blowing rain with her backside to the wind. I have tried to lead her in and she flips out. It would be more dangerous to try to lock her in than to have her standing out there, And horses are not required by law to have shelter. It is a nice amenity, and some horses do like shelter. But there are horses all over that do not have shelter. Especially those that are on properties that can range from a couple acres to hundreds of acres. Again, livestock, including horses, are NOT required to have shelter. And right now you cannot avoid the mud. Do you own horses? Unless your horse is in a $300-$400 a month stable, or you have your barn and stalls built on concrete on a hill, you have mud. I've been to some pretty nice stables and THEY have horses standing in mud. It's a fact of life this time of year.
Our other most "popular" weather related call is dogs left out in yards, or on patios, without shelter, all night and day. Unfortunately, these are about 49% founded to be true. No we cannot just TAKE the dog if we find that there isn't shelter. Actually there is usually some form of "shelter" in the owner's view. But a patio overhang is not considered adequate shelter. The shelter needs to be constructed so that the dog can get out of wind, rain and sun. It needs to have a roof and at least 3 sides. Ideally the floor should be raised off the ground a couple inches. Or bring them in the garage or house when weather is really bad. There isn't a law that says dogs must be in the house, but they must be provided with shelter! Not to mention that if the dog has shelter, or is in the house or garage, they won't get out and get in some kind of trouble if the fence or gate is broke or blown down.
Need a dog house but can't afford one?? CONTACT THE SHELTER! We still have a few dog houses left from a previous promo. Know someone who needs a dog house or shelter? Pass it on!
Now I'm NOT saying don't call in to report neglect or a possible problem. We will investigate all reports, it just may take us a few days. With only a couple officers working in the field we can only do so much at a time.
Calls are checked for their priority by our dispatcher, and our field supervisor and the ACOs. We read the notes that the operators have inputted and in some cases our dispatcher or an officer will call the complainant back for further clarification. Unfortunately we do not have time to call every person back. Again we would be spending more time on the phone and less time doing the calls. If this is truly a life or death situation, such as say a reported tethered dog (priority 4) is now tangled in it's tether so badly it cannot get free/cannot move and is in medical distress (priority 2) we certainly want to be called immediately. But if say said tethered dog is now still tethered and it's barking and that is distressing you, this doesn't raise the priority level. We will get to your call. Most likely not on the same day you placed it but we will get there.
During these bad weather days, have a little extra patience. Not only have our call logs increased, but we are also slowed down by traffic hazards and the weather itself.
Just think, in a few weeks, the ground will be dry and the temperatures will be high. And we have a whole new list of weather related calls.