Breaking down the stray dog problem in the region and exploring what towns near Greenwood are doing to cope with their stray dog issues.
Controlling the population of stray animals within a city is a problem that can quickly grow out of hand if not managed properly. Each community surrounding Greenwood has their own unique solution. Greenwood had a system in place that quickly fell apart once the Sebastian County Humane Society started their transition to a “no kill shelter” back in May. Since that time the shelter has been cramped for space and there has not been a place for dogs that are picked up in Greenwood. The SCHS has a special contract with the city of Fort Smith and houses all of their animals which leaves surrounding communities looking for alternative solutions.
Arkoma: Population 1,989
According to the Arkoma Water Clerk, Sarah Killion, the city currently does not pick up strays. Animal control was cut out of the 2016 budget. “It is a mess,” said Killion. “People dump their dogs and then you are the ones left dealing with it.” Officers do write citations to property owners whose dog get loose in the city.
Bonanza: Population 575
Currently Bonanza has no animal control and according to Mayor Elmer Nelson there is no need for one. “We have only had one incident in the last year and a half,” said Nelson. “We don’t have a lot of turnover of people and the dogs that are here belong to someone. We are pretty fortunate.” In the event that Bonanza does have a stray the Sheriff’s Office comes out and picks the animal up and charges the city $45.
Hackett: Population 812
The City of Hackett employs an animal control officer, Chuck Fortson, who has been with the city for nine years. According to Fortson, Hackett had a contract with the SCHS which expired in 2010. In that contract Hackett was to pay the shelter $15 a day up to $45. When the new Humane Society Director took charge Fortson was contacted by the shelter and told that a new contract would have to be signed and the new fee would be $92.50 per dog. To date the city has not signed a new contract. “We don’t have a big problem here,” said Fortson. “Most of the dogs that run around here I know who they belong to and we just take them home or the owners pick them up.”
Hackett requires their citizens to pay a $5 per year registration fee. Fortson is able to look up the tag number and return the dog to its owner. In the event that a dog is dumped off the city has pens that can hold up to five dogs until a home can be found for it.
Mansfield: Population 1,139
Mansfield Mayor Larry Austin also stated that strays in the city is not large problem. Most dogs that are picked are normally retrieved by their owners. Mansfield has a kennel that can hold eight dogs at a time, but according to Austin there has never been more than three dogs at any one time. Dogs, whose owners cannot be located that are not picked up within 10 days are euthanized by a local veterinarian. The city pays $25 for euthanization. Mansfield requires all dogs to have city tags which can be purchased at the water office for $2.50. “Most people here take care of their dogs. We don’t get that many strays,” said Austin. “We don’t have too much trouble with it thank goodness.” The city has an animal control officer who works part time as animal control and part time as a police officer. The city will fine an owner whose dog escapes repeatedly $25.
Hartford: population 642
Mayor James Baker stated that until recently Hartford’s stray dogs were taken to the Humane Society. That is until he received word from the SCHS that they had been “cut off” and that a new contract was needed. “The city could not afford the contract that they had,” said Baker. “It was way too expensive so I just never signed a new contract with them.”
Hartford has constructed a four cage kennel at their water department where they can hold a few dogs but according to Baker strays have not been an issue in Hartford. The city has a registration program that requires dog owners to purchase a $5 tag for a spayed or neutered animal and $15 for an intact animal.
The fee for a loose dog is a $25 pickup fee and $100 fine. “We had a dog problem in the past,” said Baker. “Once we had an officer and equipped him people started making sure to keep their dogs in.”
Lavaca: population 2,289
During business hours the City of Lavaca will send out water employees to try and wrangle a stray dog. After hours no animal control is offered unless the dog is deemed to be vicious. Lavaca does have a kennel that can hold several dogs but according to city employees there is never more than one at a time. Lavaca will hold a dog for five days, ship the animal to a local vet who will either, send the animal to the Charleston pound where they can be adopted out, or if they are not adoptable the dog will be euthanized at a charge of $40 to the city. The city requires pet owners to license their animals annually. The fee for the license is $4 for a spayed or neutered animal and $7 for an intact animal.
Charleston: Population 2,522
The City of Charleston transports any strays to a private local animal shelter. The shelter is ran by volunteers. Attempts to contact the shelter in person and on the phone were unsuccessful. Charleston does not require pet owners to register their animals.
Alma: Population 5,5419
Police Chief Russell White stated that the dog problem in Alma has greatly decreased since their animal control officer began issuing citations for loose dogs in the city. After hours the city will not pick up a loose dog. Alma has a kennel that will hold approximately 10 dogs but according to White the space is rarely used. Alma PD issues citations to a homeowners whose dogs are loose whether the animal is caught or not to encourage people to keep their animals locked up. “Just because you are not picking the dog up does not mean that it is not a violation,” said White. “Most of the time we will issue a citation and that has cut our dog calls down a lot.”
According to White, the citations have also help cut down on people letting their dogs run loose in the evenings and the weekends when the animal control officer is off duty. Alma has a current contract with the SCHS and takes their animals to the Sebastian County shelter on occasion. Alma’s contract is the same as Greenwood’s. The shelter charges $18.50 boarding fee for three days not to exceed $55.50. Any animal reclaimed by an owner will be the financial responsibility of the person reclaiming the animal and will not be billed to the City. Any animal requiring a ten day quarantine for rabies observation will be billed to the city at a fee of $185.00. If an owner can be located the fee will become the owner’s responsibility and will not be billed to the city.
Booneville: Population 3,990
The City of Booneville has taken a different approach dedication five percent of their sales tax to the dog issue in their city, which averages approximately $2,500 a month. Even with that revenue stream, along with donations, it is not enough to solve the issue. Booneville employs a full time Animal Control officer and has an $80,000 14 pen kennel which is ran by volunteers. Booneville works with several no kill organizations such as, Save Our Strays as well as shelters in other states to help find homes for all the dogs that they collect. Despite being a kill shelter Booneville rarely euthanizes a dog unless it is deemed vicious. “We don’t put dogs to sleep,” said David Hogan Animal Control Officer. “We have had real good luck.”
Hogan explained that before the dogs can be taken to another state the animals must have all of their shots, be spayed, neutered and pay a transport fee which comes to at least $100 per dog. “There is no cheap way of doing it,” said Hogan. “There just is not a good solution and people don’t realize how much you have to do to make things work for the dogs and the public.” Hogan has been the Animal Control Officer in Booneville for nine year. “When I first started I was up day and night picking up dogs. In the first four years we brought 10,200 dogs through that kennel. I quit counting after that.” Hogan stated that he picks up, on average, 10-15 dogs per day.
Hogan explained that merely starting a kennel with an animal control officer will spike the number of dogs in the area because people believe the dogs will be picked up and cared for.
Booneville does not have a pet registration of any kind.
“Animal control will never make money,” said Hogan. “But if you don’t deal with it you are going to wind up with a bunch of sick dogs out on the street. And then you have a really big mess with distemper and parvo.”
The Booneville shelter is operated by mother-daughter team Dixie and Jennifer Trowbridge. “We are a kill shelter,” said Dixie Trowbridge. “But we figured out that we could be smarter than that. We keep our dogs healthy and we vet them.”
Trowbridge stated that the shelter is currently in need of volunteer that are willing to transport the dogs to out of state shelters. Trowbride is also working to build a relationship with the Arklahoma Alliance for Animals in Waldron who help to find shelters for the dogs. Animals are shipped to Iowa, Illinois and Kansas.
“Our organization started in 2007 transporting dogs out of state of MN, Chicago, Wisconsin and other no kill humane societies,” said Connie Guthrie of the AAA. “Since 2011 our organization has been transporting Booneville's dogs, Waldron dogs (we stopped in January when the city signed a contract with Bubba's Rescue, Magazine and cities in OK. I decided in February that we needed to do something different. With that, several people met and thus Arklahoma Alliance for Animals was born.”
For more information about the alliance contact Sharron Goodner at 918-821-2763.
Greenwood: Population 8,952
At the August Council meeting Greenwood Animal Control Officer Jarrod Ricketts stated that as of July 14 the SCHS has refused to take any more animals from Greenwood. Currently the city has no shelter to take dogs to and has only a temporary holding space with local veterinarian Matthew Singer. Mayor Doug Kinslow stated that has spoken to the Director of the SCHS, Joseph Sprague, and that he explained to the mayor that the ban on Greenwood dogs was a misunderstanding, that they were simply out of room at the time and that if Greenwood will call ahead of time he will do his best to make space for the dogs in the future. The council has asked Kinslow, Ricketts and Police Chief Will Dawson to come up with a long term solution and present it at the September Council Meeting. Currently the city will not respond to a stray dog call unless it is vicious. Animal Control received 42 calls for stray animals of which only four were picked up.