Animal control: A dirty little secret’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 17, 2002

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman, left, and Mayor Laurence Leyens look on as Money, a 6-week-old, mixed-breed male puppy, rests on the desk at City Hall Annex Monday. Leyens adopted the puppy from the Vicksburg Warren Humane Society. (The Vicksburg Post/C. Todd Sherman)

Mayor Laurence Leyens says the city and county have failed in 14 months of negotiations to reach an agreement over what he calls Vicksburg’s “dirty, little secret.”

“Frankly, I’m very embarrassed about the animal-control policies in our community, both city and county,” Leyens said.

Last week, Leyens stormed out of a joint meeting with county supervisors and city elected officials where animal control has been a topic since the boards began the informal meetings more than a year ago.

Different rules are on the books inside and outside Vicksburg on pets and strays, and the problem is approached differently in the two areas. It’s a hot-button issue, and 2003 is an election year for county officials.

Earlier this year, city and county officials agreed to study a plan to convert an empty, city-owned building at City Park into a joint animal-control facility. Each government budgeted $125,000 to fund the project.

But a holdup is that Warren County does not have an animal control ordinance. County officials have said they are working on it.

“For the last 14 months, our supervisors have used that as an excuse,” Leyens said. “It’s about to the point where if the county is not going to participate, then we’re going to have to give up some public works project and do it all ourselves.”

Richard George, president of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, said there is a rough draft of a countywide animal control ordinance ready, but that supervisors want to look at certain issues such as enforcement before moving forward.

He also said the county board will hold public hearings before adopting any ordinance.

“We are committed to enacting a suitable, acceptable and affordable animal control ordinance, but it’s going to have to take place in our time,” George said.

What the final ordinance will say is not clear although supervisors have said it will not be as restrictive as Vicksburg’s, which requires all animals to be kept on private property or to be on a lease.

The total cost of converting the former U.S. Naval Reserve building into an animal-ontrol facility has been estimated at about $300,000.

The estimated operational cost is about $250,000 annually.

Today, the only options for animal control locally are the Vicksburg Warren Humane Society on U.S. 61 South, which is funded by an annual $12,000 allocation from the county; $15,000 a year from the Combined Federal Campaign and private donations; and the city’s animal control facility. Vicksburg puts about $190,000 annually into that facility, but Leyens says he wants to combine the city’s and county’s efforts to come up with a better solution.

Leyens said he calls animal control a “dirty little secret” because instead of finding homes for the animals, most brought to the city’s shelter are trucked to Jackson each Wednesday and put to sleep.

“If the community doesn’t call the supervisors and tell them that animal control is an important issue then it’s not going to happen,” Leyens said.