Stray dogs get BCSO, SPCA look

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 3/13/19

The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office and the SPCA of Bradley County are taking steps to work together to deal with stray dogs reportedly crossing onto school property.

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Stray dogs get BCSO, SPCA look

Posted

The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office and the SPCA of Bradley County are taking steps to work together to deal with stray dogs reportedly crossing onto school property.

The issue was brought forth by local residents in a recent gathering of the Bradley County Commission’s Law Enforcement Committee. Mary and Phil Wooten attended the meeting to share their concerns about dogs running loose near Waterville Elementary School.

Chairman Jeff Yarber introduced the couple, noting their property abuts the school and they have seen dogs wandering on their property and onto school property.

Mary Wooten said she has lived on her property for 40 years and has had no problems with stray dogs until the past year. She said she and her husband are in their 70s and are concerned for their own safety as well as the safety of students at the nearby school.

Wooten said they have been told no one in Bradley County can pick up stray dogs, but she said someone should be able to because of the state leash law. She suggested maybe Bradley County Fire-Rescue personnel stationed near Waterville Elementary School could “multitask” and help deal with stray dogs when they are not on emergency calls.

Wooten said she is also concerned about stray animals having rabies and presenting that danger to children.

Yarber said he has spoken with the Wootens, Sheriff Steve Lawson, Commissioner Erica Davis and former Commissioner Dan Rawls. Both Davis and Rawls serve on the board of the SPCA of Bradley County. Yarber said all are in agreement that if the Wootens see stray dogs, to call the BCSO.

“We do need to be proactive on that,” Yarber said, adding that if the Wootens know who owns the dogs and they tell the BCSO, the deputy can write a citation for the owner.

“We are working on it and trying to get a resolution on it,” Yarber said.

Commissioner Howard Thompson said the statewide leash law should be enforced, adding, “We need more teeth in that citation.” He said the public needs to be aware of the leash law and how individuals can be held accountable for violating it.

“If we don’t, nothing will ever happen,” he said.

Thompson said he believes the county commission needs to make a recommendation and find out from County Attorney Crystal Freiberg what the county can do. Freiberg, who was present for the recent meeting, said there are “fairly extensive” leash laws to regulate these issues, but enforcement of those existing laws is the issue.

Freiberg said when the issue came up before, she understood deputies did not want to put stray animals in the back of their vehicles if they were not set up for animal passengers.

“The laws are on the books to be enforced,” she noted.

Commissioner Bill Winters asked if a dog is threatening a child, can law enforcement deal with it? Freiberg said yes, but it is probably “too late” at that point.

Winters said local residents can call the BCSO if dogs are seen on school property. He asked if Bradley County has any policy to deal with this situation. Freiberg said the county doesn’t need a policy because it is addressed under state law. She added the county is under contract with the SPCA, but SPCA is not contractually obligated to pick up animals.

“We do not have an entity other than the Sheriff’s Office” that could pick up animals, she said.

Freiberg said in the past the BCSO has not picked up animals running at-large if they are not aggressive.

Yarber said he believes there is a clause in the SPCA contract that if a dog is aggressive, the SPCA will pick it up. He added the problem for establishing a pick-up program is start-up cost.

“I don’t know what the answer is,” Yarber said, adding he is not sure the sheriff wants the burden of this additional duty.

However, Yarber reiterated that on this particular issue brought forth by the Wootens, the BCSO and the SPCA said they will work together.

“This is a special case and they’re going to handle it appropriately,” Yarber said.

Davis told the Wootens if they see stray dogs again at their property and at the school, to call her and she will work with the SPCA to make sure dogs are picked up. Davis added she would like the SPCA board and the BCSO to meet. Yarber said he will put that on the next Law Enforcement Committee meeting agenda.


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