BY ROBERT MORALES
City council members on Tuesday evening contended with a host of various topics in an 11-item agenda, but most of the discussion was focused on the cityâ€™s stray animal problem.
Council member Rudy Hinojos expressed concerns about “loose animalsâ€ that are running amok in town.
“Facebook is flooded with all the problems we have with the animals,â€ said Mr. Hinojos. Some people complain that itâ€™s not right that someoneâ€™s dog gets caught and thereâ€™s five or six other dogs running around. I think we have a problem with loose animals.â€
Apparently, Mayor Glenn Humphries said, the people that are being “vocalâ€ are the people posting on Facebook, but those people are not calling the city office to voice a complaint.
“Most people come in and pay a fine, pick up their animal, and they donâ€™t make a big deal about it,â€ said Ms. Malafronte. “One woman went nuts on Facebook when her dog got picked up and she complained, â€˜Why did my dog get picked up, thereâ€™s 12 other dogs out there, why mine?â€™â€
“A lot of times, people will call in a loose dog, we send our animal control officer, and by the time he gets there, the dogâ€™s gone.â€
Ms. Malafronte added that the animal problem in town is compounded by the fact that the city has very few traps/cages to catch stray animals. She also said that during the summer, even if the city did have a good supply of traps, the heat could possibly lead to an animalâ€™s death if the traps are not constantly monitored.
“If anyone calls our office,â€ Ms. Malafronte said, “we dispatch immediately. If someone calls and says thereâ€™s a pit bull in front of my house, we will make sure someone goes to that house. But no call goes unanswered, and if people are complaining, itâ€™s because theyâ€™re not calling in [to our office.]
Ms. Malafronte said that there have been multiple occasions when the code enforcement officer is dispatched to investigate a complaint of a dog with no water and a short leash. “The owner gets upset and asks, â€˜why are you picking on me, the dog is on my property?â€™â€
“Itâ€™s more than the dog is on your property,â€ said Ms. Malafronte. “Itâ€™s a major issue that you leave dogs outside in this heat with no water. Just recently, a tenant on Bell Street left and moved to Sierra Blanca and left a dog tied up to the trailer with a very short leash with no food or water.â€
“The other thing is,â€ said council member Pam Young, “is that some people donâ€™t have a voice except on Facebook. And so they go off on a tangent instead of calling us first.â€
“Facebook is not the place to complain,â€ said Ms. Malafronte. “If itâ€™s a real problem, those people need to do the right thing and complain to us. Most of these people donâ€™t believe in leashes or keeping their pets in a fenced yard, and even sometimes, keeping a dog tied up with no water on a short leash. People who care about their pets keep them in fenced yards and they take care of their pets. These are people that just donâ€™t care. Itâ€™s very difficult to deal with these types of people.â€
Ms. Malafronte said that if loose dogs are picked up, the owner must claim them within three days, otherwise the dogs are euthanized (killed).
“We just ran out of the chemical [to euthanize animals],â€ she said. “We had it for two years, and we never ran out. We had to re-order recently. Weâ€™ve been euthanizing so many dogs. You have no idea how many dogs have been put down.â€
Council members also discussed or took action of the following items:
* The courthouse well that had been reconditioned through a grant was hit by lightning recently. All pumps are down, and nothing is working on it, said Ms. Malafronte. Town of Van Horn has filed a claim with Texas Municipal League. The city will now get quotes on repairing the well. The pump may be covered under a warranty because the pump is new.
* Problem with garbage trucks right after Fourth of July not picking up garbage was caused because Sierra Blancaâ€™s landfill was closed for two days because the landfill was flooded. There were two garbage trucks sitting idle that were both full.
* The Town of Van Horn official web site is 99-percent complete.