MANSFIELD — Preliminary discussions on animal control took place during Mansfield’s safety committee meeting Tuesday.

Don Bryant, committee chairman, said there have been over 80 calls regarding animal services since June 2015.

He brought up the idea of hiring an animal control officer, noting there are 14 cities in the state that currently have animal control officers.

Typical services provided by an animal control officer include enforcing animal control regulations, issuing citations, enforcing city ordinances related to animals, micro-chipping, responding to nuisance and/or bite complaints and coordinating with the USDA Wildlife Services for exotic animal complaints, he said.

“Our goal should be to enhance and maintain a level of services expected by our residents, and perhaps even reduce the cost of our local government,” he said.

One way to help do that could be via a collaboration with the Humane Society of Richland County and the Richland County Dog Warden’s Office, he said.

Missy Houghton, executive director of the humane society, briefed council on what services the nonprofit provides and said, “We have the capability to expand the services that we already provide.”

Missy Houghton

She said they recently swore in two additional humane agents, giving them a total of four agents.

Law Director John Spon asked about the organization’s enforcement powers when it comes to taking possession of a stray dog.

“We have in the past taken possession of stray dogs, but that is (the dog warden’s) position, so we don’t want to infringe on what he does, so we refer all of that to him,” she said. “Do we have the capability to go out and take a stray dog? Yes, but it just muddies the water between what the two departments do.”

Mansfield resident Deborah Mount said in her 11-and-a-half years as a neighborhood watch leader, she’s seen and dealt with many animal complaints.

“It has been mentioned previously in council chambers that dog barking calls are high priority due to potential violence. I have never found that to be so,” she said.

She said many of her calls regarding animal complaints have gone unanswered or that it was hours, days, even weeks before someone responded.

She’s also had issues with dogs roaming her property.

“We’ve had pit bulls running on our property and when that happens we’re prisoners in our house,” she said. “We can’t leave until they choose to leave and nobody comes in any quick manner to deal with it.”

Mansfield resident Ingrid Casler experienced a similar situation while visiting a relative. She had to wait 45 minutes for the two pit bulls that were in the yard to leave before she was able to exit the house, she said.

Jackie Schuster, another Mansfield resident, said her 6-pound Yorkshire Terrier was attacked by three pit bulls in her yard. “We found out from the dog warden that those same dogs had killed a cat just a few streets down from us, she said.

“We’re very concerned about the pit bulls in the city of Mansfield, and we’d like to support any order that would be taken to restrict them.”

Spon said his office is currently working on amending the city’s dog ordinance and is reviewing other cities’ ordinances as it considers what revisions to make.

He said he’s concerned about the proliferation of pit bulls and pit bull type breeds because of their unpredictability and potential danger.

Currently, pit bulls are prohibited in city limits. Mount said if the ban were to be lifted that she’d like the hunting ban to be lifted.  

“We presently have no right to shoot the pit bull unless it’s mauling somebody. If it was mauling a pet, I can’t do anything about it–I just have to watch the pit bull kill it. If pit bulls will be allowed then I would request that citizens have more legal authority to handle it when they’re attacked or when one is on their property and won’t leave,” she said.

Garnetta Pender, vice chairwoman of the safety committee, made a motion that the committee meet with the law director to continue discussing animal control matters. The motion passed.   

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