By Amanda Moss
January 7, 2014
It has been exactly a week since the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office took over animal control, and the office is taking the steps it needs to fill that position to suit the county’s needs.
Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. was unsure when Tommy Jarrell, Richmond County health director, approached him almost a year ago about taking over animal control from the Health Department. There was not an easy answer to the question.
“Initially we understood what they (the Health Department) wanted, but we needed the time to do the research to make a decision on it,” Clemmons said. “That’s when I looked into New Hanover and Brunswick counties to see how it was working for them. I was told how great it was and that it really worked for the county.”
Based on his research and the fact that it was at the request of the Health Department and the county, Clemmons agreed to take on the responsibility. The deputies at the sheriff’s office, however, never had any training in responding to calls concerning animal control.
“The only real experience they’ve had is going out and taking a report of a vicious dog attack,” Clemmons said.
Clemmons has assigned two deputies to work with animal control. The task now is getting these law enforcement officials trained. Law enforcement officials in Union County have offered to assist the sheriff’s office in its training of its deputies, Clemmons said.
Deputies from Richmond County have been extended the invitation to join on ride-alongs to see how different situations are handled.
“We’re in the process of ascertaining what needs to be done for the county,” Clemmons said.
The two deputies that are now taking over animal control were willing participants in the new job.
“The two (deputies) that took on this volunteered to be assigned to it,” Clemmons said. “They are both excellent officers, and it really was amazing that they went ahead and volunteered for the responsibility.”
On Jan. 2, just one day after the sheriff’s office took over animal control, a total of eight dogs were taken in based on a complaint from a community in the county. It was a busy start, but the new responsibility has not made it busier than usual, Clemmons said.
The commissioners of Richmond County believed this was the best move for the residents in the county, Clemmons said. The idea is that the sheriff’s office has better and more resources and there were instances where law enforcement officials would still be called to the scene to enforce the law when it came to a vicious dog bite. Now the call goes directly to the sheriff’s office instead of involving two entities.
The budget that was allocated to the Health Department totaled roughly $94,000 for the fiscal year, Clemmons said. The remaining funds will now go to the sheriff’s office to assist in animal control. The money will go to resources needed for animal control along with equipment and the training needed to take on this new assignment.
“Our concern is taking care of the community, and that is what we intend to do,” Clemmons said.