Roaming animals caging some pet owners

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 14, 2002

Bobbie Galford, who asked the Board of Mayor and Alderman last week to improve leash laws, walks with her poodle, Buffy.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[01/12/02]Bobbie Galford says a lack of enforcement of city leash laws has made it impossible for her and her poodle to take a simple walk through their neighborhood, Marion Park, since they were attacked there by another dog.

Galford said the attack left her and Buffy shaken, but it also sent Buffy to the animal hospital for a week and under doctor’s orders not to move around for another week.

The physical wounds have healed, but Galford said the walks she and her pet used to enjoy every day are now impossible.

“She still isn’t over it,” Galford said. “Every time she sees another dog she starts to shake and quiver.”

Armed with a love of animals, Galford, who adopted both of her pets from the Vicksburg Warren County Humane Society, took her problem to City Hall. She told members of the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen last week that something has to be done.

“This is not an animal problem, it is a people problem,” she said. “These animals are not just strays. They have owners who are just irresponsible pet owners.”

City ordinances require that all pets be kept on a leash when on public streets or sidewalks or kept in pens or fenced-in yards on private property. Galford said the number of dogs on almost every city street makes it clear to her that those laws are not being enforced.

In addition to the dangers to other pets and people, animals running loose adversely affects tourism and business and may contribute to litter when dogs get into trash cans, Galford said.

“This time it was my dog that was attacked, but next time it could be a child,” she said.

To enforce laws already on the books, the city employs two people in animal control whose job it is to make sure that residents keep pets on leashes or in yards. Last year, the city picked up about 1,100 animals and spent $250,000, or about $227 per animal, on animal control.

Of those, 41 were adopted, 92 were released to their owners and 968 were taken to a shelter in Jackson where they were adopted or put to sleep.

For the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, $183,000 was budgeted for animal control.

“There is not quick fix,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens. “It’s a cultural issue and an overwhelming problem.”

Leyens said the city is working to establish a committee to begin addressing the problem in Vicksburg and Warren County. One possibility, he said, is a joint venture with Warren County and the Humane Society.

Currently, there are no leash laws outside of municipal limits. The county helps fund the Humane Society with $12,000 a year, but the agency often runs short on money.

“The Humane Society and animal control need to get together,” said North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young. “It costs nothing to talk.”

Leyens said the city is looking at possibly providing a location where animal control and the Humane Society could operate a joint venture. One possible location is the city recreation department building behind the city pool.

He said the city would also look at some possible public education programs to help promote spaying and neutering.

“There could be a lot of spaying or neutering for $227 per animal,” Galford said.