City council discusses stray animal problem at length with few solutions


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 city’s stray animal problem.

Council member Rudy Hinojos expressed concerns about “loose animals” that are running amok in town.

“Facebook is flooded with all the problems we have with the animals,” said Mr. Hinojos.  Some people complain that it’s not right that someone’s dog gets caught and there’s five or six other dogs running around. I think we have a problem with loose animals.”

When asked if the city office was receiving complaints about loose animals, City Administrator Fran Malafronte said no.

Apparently, Mayor Glenn Humphries said, the people that are being “vocal” 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 don’t make a big deal about it,” said Ms. Malafronte. “One woman went nuts on Facebook when her dog got picked up and she complained, ‘Why did my dog get picked up, there’s 12 other dogs out there, why mine?’”

As Ms. Malafronte explained, if an animal control officer is passing by a neighborhood, and it happens to be your dog, that’s the dog that’s going to get picked up.

“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 dog’s gone.”

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 animal’s death if the traps are not constantly monitored.

“If anyone calls our office,” Ms. Malafronte said, “we dispatch immediately. If someone calls and says there’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, it’s because they’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, ‘why are you picking on me, the dog is on my property?’”

“It’s more than the dog is on your property,” said Ms. Malafronte. “It’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.”

“The other thing is,” said council member Pam Young, “is that some people don’t have a voice except on Facebook. And so they go off  on a tangent instead of calling us first.”

“Facebook is not the place to complain,” said Ms. Malafronte. “If it’s a real problem, those people need to do the right thing and complain to us. Most of these people don’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 don’t care. It’s very difficult to deal with these types of people.”

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],” she said. “We had it for two years, and we never ran out. We had to re-order recently.  We’ve been euthanizing so many dogs. You have no idea how many dogs have been put down.”

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 Blanca’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.

*  Approved contract with ASA Architects for expansion of Van Horn Convention Center.


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