Hill County Paw Pals, Hill County, Texas
Hill County Citizens view County Animal Control as a Priority

County animal control programs are not foreign to many living in our area of central Texas. If fact, over 2.2 million people living in the counties of Bastrop, Bell, Brazos, Burnet, Caldwell, Coryell, Fayette, Hays, Lampasas, Llano, McClennan (through Waco for rabies control), Travis, Washington (through Brenham for rabies control), and Williamson have some level of animal control for their citizens (interestingly, six of these counties are equal to or smaller than the population of Hill County). Why does Hill County remain without an animal control program? It’s simple, animal control has yet to be determined a “priority” by our elected officials even with our ever worsening pet overpopulation where dangerous feral dog packs roam uncontrolled, unwanted dogs and cats breed at will, and criminal abuse and “dumping” is common-place—all stemming from one common source—irresponsible individuals. In a democracy, citizens are at the top of the organizational structure. Elected officials of the aforementioned counties have viewed animal control as a core service expected by their tax paying constituents. The safety of residents is given top priority. To enrich the community we call home, we in Hill County can do the same.

Pet overpopulation can simply be corrected with the placement of three “proactive” programs—Education, Low Cost Pet Sterilization, and Legislation (enforcement of animal control laws). As a group of citizens, Paw Pals has taken serious initiatives with the formation of two of three necessary proactive programs—Education and Low Cost Pet Sterilization. The remaining program, proactive enforcement of animal control laws, remains to be improved in Hill County. Proactively enforcing existing State of Texas animal control laws in our county has been repressed because of the absence of a county-level animal shelter. In other words, no place exists for citizens to surrender unwanted pets or to place free-roaming pets—so, we create an environment in the very place we call home where dog and cats simple proliferate at their natural exponential rate. Ignorance driven by a sense of desperation leads irresponsible persons with unwanted pets to either dump them or abandon them, leaving the law-biding and responsible citizens to pick up the pieces.

The following are but two examples how “proactive” enforcement of animal control laws can encourage responsible pet ownership. Hill County has some 12,204 households where over half, on average, own two dogs and/or cats (based on HSUS formula). Therefore, some 28,000 dogs and cats live within Hill County’s households (this figure does include our abundant “stray” pet population). It is estimated that from 50-70% of dogs and cats are not current with the rabies virus vaccinations (nearly 100% of “strays” are not vaccinated). This means that up to 19,000 pets living with families in Hill County are not protected from the deadly rabies virus in Hill County—an area already quarantined by Texas Department of Health Services for rabies. If the pets are unvaccinated, then their owners are also unprotected in the event of exposure. Does it make sense to expose our children to such a dangerous environment? It is common place in Hill County to “dump” dogs or cats near schools with the criminal-mannered notion that school children will take home the unwanted dogs. Not having dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies after four months of age is a Class C Misdemeanor punishable with a $300 fine (THSC Chapter 826). The enforcement of this very State of Texas law could be the key to encouraging pet owners to take responsibility to vaccinate their pets and this step often leads to the next step in responsible ownership—sterilizing pets. The second law is one that most are not familiar with—“Dogs Dangerous to Other Animals” law (THSC Chapter 822, Sub-Chapter B) where “the owner or keeper of a dog that the person knows is accustomed to chase or kill livestock, domestic animals (yes, your cat), or fowl (yes, your chickens) may not allow the dog to run at large. The penalty of the owner who allows his dog to run at large is in violation and can be punished with a fine not to exceed $100.” Sloppy, irresponsible habits of pet owners can be corrected with education and the proactive enforcement of laws and the very real risk of fines.

Please come join the grassroots efforts of citizens with Hill County Paw Pals. Together we can bring positive change to our community. Paw Pals has a public meeting on the first Thursday of each month at their property location: 1500 South Abbott Avenue in Hillsboro (next to TXDOT). Please visit www.hcpawpals.org for more information call 254.580.0679 or email hcpawpals@yahoo.com.