By Jon Schroeder
Killeen Daily Herald
Coryell County officials believe the county has an animal control problem. On Nov. 15, they took the first steps toward what they think is a viable solution.
During the meeting Coryell County commissioners decided to draw up a contract between the county and Bell Area Animal Shelter Limited Liability Co.
Coryell County Judge John Firth called the contract a potential "stop-gap measure" to ensure that the county has a short-term storage solution if it doesn't have another place to house animals.
"We are looking at all options," Firth said. Those options are inter-local agreements between Coryell County and the cities of Gatesville and Copperas Cove, contracting with local animal shelters or – on the more expensive end of the spectrum – building a Coryell County facility.
"We owe it to our sheriff, and we owe it to our people," Firth said at the meeting. "We take very seriously the issue of animal control."
But for this fiscal year, some of those possibilities might not play out for financial reasons. Firth said two areas that could cost more than projected when this year's budget was approved are matching federal funding for road and bridge projects and Coryell County's liability for murder trial expenses, which will likely exceed the norm this year.
Because a new building contract could be "in excess of $100,000," as Firth said, it might not pan out until county officials begin putting together next year's budget in March.
In addition to working on the contract with Bell Area Animal Shelter LLC, Coryell County has entered informal discussions with Copperas Cove about adding on to a facility there.
"One viable option is to provide county resources for the construction of a new building at their shelter," Firth said. "The question becomes, 'Can we afford it on our current budget?'"
Firth said aggressive domesticated animals and feral animals increasingly are becoming a problem in the county.
"The commissioners court has been addressing this issue off and on for some time," he said.
Coryell County Sheriff Johnny Burks "doesn't have the resources to manage it," Firth said.
Burks, who has attended several recent commissioners court meetings, said he doesn't have the tools to fix coming problems, adding that the cities of Copperas Cove and Gatesville have been helpful in the past, providing housing for captured animals using per-animal fees.
In addition, the county has turned in the past to veterinarians, but those services are becoming harder to come by because by taking in aggressive animals, particularly pit bulls, clinic owners can hurt their businesses.
Burks said in an October meeting of the court that the county received about 10 "cattle calls" the weekend before, asking law enforcement officials to come out and deal with problems with wandering animals.
County Attorney Brandon Belt said that with new laws in place, it's only a matter of time before law enforcement agencies catch someone with about "20 pit bulls on chains in someone's backyard."
"We've been putting off this problem for some time – by being lucky," he said, noting that in cases involving pit bulls within the county so far, owners have generally been cooperative, working with veterinarians to deal with their animals properly.
"What we're concerned about is a place to go with aggressive animals," Burks said.
Contact Jon Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-0428