Cats and dogs still a problem in Demopolis

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 20, 2005

DEMOPOLIS-The city of Demopolis continues to look for solutions to the problems of stray animals. Previously, the council had been under the impression that in order to have a person employed to pick up stray animals they had to be a certified police officer.

Council member Jack Cooley said he had discussed a possible solution with another municipality that would not involve employment of an animal control officer.

“I talked with the Alabama League of Municipalities this week,” Cooley said. “It is not a state law that the person designated as an animal control officer be a certified police officer provided they don’t write summons or tickets. We can employ someone to pick up stray animals without them being a certified police officer.”

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One possible route was to use volunteers. Cooley said the proper facilities were in place, they just needed some manpower.

“We have a facility now, but we don’t have the staff,” Cooley said. “I talked with someone in another city about volunteers staffing the facility and he has agreed that if we enact something of this nature with volunteers it could be at no cost to the city.”

However, using volunteers in this capacity could create problems. Without the power to issue tickets the volunteers would have little authority at all. Demopolis Police Chief Jeff Manuel said there was a great possibility of confrontations that could lead to a series of problems if volunteers were used.

“One thing we need to think about is you know you are going to have some confrontations when you are picking up stray dogs,” Manuel said. “The question is do we have the personnel to enforce this?”

Insurance and liability would be another major issue with the use of volunteers. Council member Woody Collins said using volunteers would be a concern to the city’s insurance providers.

“I think a lot of what we are talking about and the volunteer standpoint goes along with the SPCA,” Collins said. “They are privately run and privately funded. Our insurance carriers had the concern of having them in our facilities and on our property. Our concern came with them working on city grounds and we need to understand all the liabilities.”

It was later determined that volunteers were not covered under the cities insurance. Workers who are not on the city payroll present no liability. However, the providers would cover an animal control officer on a certain pay grade.

For now, the city plans to continue to weigh their options for solutions to the animal control issues.