ALEXANDRIA – The city of Alexandria is wrestling with an issue that many other communities face.
Mike Salyers came before the Alexandria City Council last week to see whether anything could be done about what he considers hostile dogs allowed to roam free in the 200 block of Sixth Street where he lives.
“The dogs on that end of town is running crazy. They’ve come through my screen door,” he said. “When you’re afraid to walk out of your house and a dog’s growling at you, what are you going to do?”
The issue of pets and feral dogs and cats allowed to wander freely through city streets is one being tackled by most Madison County municipalities in one way or another.
Alexandria Police Chief Matt Ellis said his department has limited staff and facilities to deal with animal-related issues.
“We don’t have the facilities to take non-aggressive animals,” he said. "Aggressive animals, we do the best we can. The problem is catching the dog and fining the owners. It’s a very difficult job that falls to us, and we’re not really animal control officers. If an animal is aggressive, we’ll try to deal with it. We do it with a catch pole, a Taser and a gun.”
The city’s kennel does not have running water and is badly in need of mowing, Ellis added. In addition, he said, the city’s last dog catcher died, and he’s been difficult to replace.
“Honestly, the pay and on-call hours are not attractive,” he said.
Mayor Ron Richardson said when he served as Madison County sheriff, his department worked with the municipalities on animal control on a basis of a fixed cost per animal.
He said the Madison County Sheriff’s Department has appropriately equipped vehicles, which the Alexandria Police Department does not. He offered to contact Sheriff Scott C. Mellinger to see what can be done.
“We can start there and see if we can contract with the county,” he said.
Mellinger said on Monday he had not yet been contacted by anyone from Alexandria, and that any assistance his department would be able to give would be limited. His department has two vehicles outfitted for animal control and one deputy trained in that area.
“Every agency really is deluged with these calls,” he said. “Right now, every jurisdiction is taking care of their own problems in that area. And it’s all we can do to take care of the problems we get called in on from the county.”
Even if he were able to help, Mellinger said, it would only be for an animal demonstrated to be a danger to people, other animals or property. Deputies also might take custody of animals in situations of suspected neglect or abuse, he said.
“If it’s just a stray, we typically won’t pick them up,” he said.
Animals then would be taken to the Animal Protection League in Anderson, Mellinger said. All law enforcement agencies in the county have access to the shelter's facilities and services, he added.