Hill County Paw Pals, Hill County, Texas
  

Pet Overpopulation Consequences:  Hill County Facing Potential Liabilities

By Sarah Bennett

 

The seriousness of pet overpopulation is compounded because of its exponential growth.  Starting from "one pair" of breeding dogs, in seven generations (four years), 4,372 offspring can result!  Two uncontrolled breeding cats can produce 420,715 cats in this same period!  Ignoring pet overpopulation is simply careless.  Pet overpopulation bears the burdens of four liabilities—health, economic, legal, and safety.  The following are four real-world examples impacting Hill County of each of these liabilities.

Health—Rabies is the most dangerous of the zoonosis issues regarding our community because it is nearly 100% fatal if contracted.  Once symptoms are exhibited it is almost always too late for any treatment and death results.  Last year a Good Samaritan family took in a seemingly healthy “stray” dog.  The dog died of rabies and the entire family had to undergo preventative rabies protocol—an expensive and painful series of inoculations.  Studies estimate that up to 70% of our pets are not vaccinated against the rabies virus despite the state law requiring it.  As serious as the deadly rabies virus is, Hill County has ZERO enforcement of this law.  In fact, Hill County does not even have a local rabies control authority as mandated by Texas law—a reckless and potentially deadly oversight.

Economics—Marauding packs of “stray” dogs bring destruction to livestock.  A month ago, just one mile east of Hillsboro, three separate dog attacks occurred involving cattle.  Two cattle had to be destroyed after their ears were chewed off and their noses and mouths were so disfigured that they could no longer eat or drink.  Wouldn’t it be better to have proactive animal control programs to counter the pet overpopulation problem that led to these unwanted and ultimately feral dogs?  The economic setback that resulted from the loss of that livestock pales in comparison, however, with the realization that the victims could have just as easily been children.

Legal—Communities in the state of Texas can only euthanize unwanted dogs and cats in the manner specified by law. (The two approved methods to be administered by an animal control officer only involve carbon dioxide gas or lethal injection.)  Seventy percent (70%) of Hill County TAX-PAYING citizens do not have animal control support.  Where does this leave these communities in terms of what their leaders can do with unwanted animals?  Each county surrounding Hill County has closed the doors of their respective animal control facilities to Hill County “strays” because they each have their own pet overpopulation issues to handle.  This leaves most of our communities and citizens without support.  Only Hillsboro and Whitney have designated animal control services.  Texas law is very specific on how communities can euthanize their unwanted dogs and cats and it does not involve shooting, drowning, or “relocating” them—violation of these laws can result in fines of up to $4,000 and/or incarceration of up to one year in jail.  A Louisiana case is ongoing in which two deputies have been indicted by a grand jury and on February 15 will face arraignment on aggravated animal cruelty charges for “shooting” dogs harbored in a shelter during hurricane Katrina.

Safety—“Stray” dogs and cats can be unpredictable because their behavioral and health histories are unknown.  The risks posed to our citizens by the growing pet overpopulation crisis are unacceptable.  There is no excuse for continuing to ignore our county’s pet overpopulation issue.  Someone somewhere was responsible for each of these stray dog(s) that caused each of the incidents listed above. People cause pet overpopulation and people are the only ones with the power to correct it.

Animal control is a core service expected by tax payers.  One of the primary official functions of our honorable elected county leaders is to prioritize and formulate our county’s budget—a budget derived from each of our hard-earned tax dollars.  With the perpetual operating expense of an animal shelter prioritized into the existing budget, no increase in taxes will result.  Pet overpopulation CAN be corrected.  Thousands of communities across our great nation have accomplished this but its will take our LEADERS and us as a community to affect change. 

If you would like to be part of the growing grassroots movement to bring positive change by installing a basic county animal shelter, contact Hill County Paw Pals at 580-0679 or email hacpawpals@yahoo.com.  Or write your message and voice your concerns directly to County Judge Justin Lewis or your County Commissioner at P.O. Box 457, Hillsboro, Texas 76645.