The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office will be able to improve service once it takes over animal control duties in the county.
Rick Sago, Richmond County manager, and Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. responded Monday night to a months-old request from the Richmond County Health Department to have the sheriff’s office taking over those responsibilities effective early January 2014.
“The request came from the health department several months back,” Sago said. “We have been in discussions with the sheriff since the first of the year.”
The health department currently has only two full-time animal control employees. Each person alternates being on call, Sago said.
“There are a lot of animals in this county,” Sago said. “The health department felt like it was necessary to make this change. The sheriff has researched other areas and counties in North Carolina that have done this and have seen an increase of service to the community with regards to animal control.”
The issue of animal control is nothing new to the sheriff’s office, a representative of which has not yet been available to address questions related to manpower, services or duties. Sago said it’s not uncommon to have a sheriff’s deputy respond to animal control calls despite it being handled by the health department.
The animal control budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2014, is $94,000, Sago said. Roughly half of that will be transferred to the control of the sheriff’s office to cover the costs of taking on animal control. This budget includes a salary line item to hire animal control officers.
“There is a good chance that the sheriff will hire more to cover animal control,” said Sago. “The deputies now already have full-time jobs.”
Sago noted that “there is no decision cast in stone.”
It is not yet known what will happen to those employed by the health department to handle animal control, Sago said.