SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – East Texas is a community known for its love of animals. However, abandoning dogs has been an ongoing issue in the area. The problem is now forcing Smith County officials to propose a new ordinance.
In Texas, it is illegal to abandon an animal. People can face up to two years in jail and pay up to $10,000 in fines.
A Smith County barbershop owner noticed a dog that had recently been hanging around and looked abandoned.
“He had been running around this property now for three weeks,” said Bill Brown.
Brown posted about the dog on social media and made signs. Desperate for answers, he turned to Smith County Animal Control.
“The sign on the front door said the owner of pets can’t drop the pets off there. I wasn’t an owner, I just needed to find a place for the dog. They said they don’t do that,” said Brown.
Explaining their policy, the Smith County Animal Control said they want to do initial investigations first.
“We don’t take animals in our facility because we want to do an initial investigation on each complaint because we want to make sure we can get that animal back to its owner if we can. Now, if it’s a surrender, we have resources that can help them where they don’t have to come to the shelter but the pet can be placed in a foster home or rescue,” said Le’Kisha Stinecipher, coordinator at Smith County Animal Control.
As temperatures continue to drop, people abandoning dogs doesn’t seem to hinder.
“Within the last week, we have brought in approximately 50 puppies into the shelter and we are seeing an increase,” said Stinecipher.
The Smith County Animal Shelter can only hold 50 dogs at a time.
“If we are overfilled and we have to get a dog off the street, we have to empty a cage to fill that cage. That is the time and point if we have no choice how good that dog is. If it’s been here the longest, unfortunately, it’s time is up,” said Stinecipher.
Stinecipher rescued a dog herself that was facing euthanasia. She is now proposing a new ordinance for Smith County.
“We are introducing a possible mandatory spay, neutering, and microchip within the county. It’s set as a last resort scenario. We will try to pull out the resources and educate people, but if that’s the way we have to go we will mandate it,” she said.
Thanks to volunteers, community outreach programs, and rescues like the SPCA, they match animals with their forever families and are supportive of a proposed ordinance. They urge animal owners to spay and neuter pets.
“This stems from unwanted animals and dogs and cats that are having babies and then people don’t know what to do with them,” Kat Cortelyou, Director of Operations for the SPCA of East Texas says.
A female stray dog is usually ‘in heat’ twice a year and can give birth to up 15 puppies a year. The problem has grown to the point where the SPCA of East Texas makes monthly trips to the northeastern United States to deliver homeless dogs to families looking to adopt.
“Each time we run we have between 30 to 35 dogs on the van,” said Kat Cortelyou, Director of SPCA. “They are placed immediately in a foster home or adoptive home.”
Spaying and neutering laws in the northern parts of the country are strict. This leads to many families adopting dogs from the south where spaying and neutering laws are relaxed.
The public is welcome to attend the Smith County Commissioners Court meeting on January 28th where the proposed ordinance will be discussed.