Smith County commissioners hear concerns over lack of funding and manpower for animal control

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) – Animal control concerns took center stage at the start of Tuesday’s Smith County Commissioners’ Court meeting, as commissioners heard from animal rescue organizations and a citizen concerned about the resources devoted to animal control.

“You can’t keep doing the same things you’re doing,” one woman said during the meeting’s public comment period. “Please add additional funding. Hire people who want to do the job.

“Guys, we have to do something different,” said Gwen Coyle, with Angel Paws Advocates. “It’s the county’s responsibility and it’s not being addressed.”

Among those who expressed concern was Deborah Dobbs, president and founder of the SPCA of East Texas.

“Our animal control officers are underpaid,” Dobbs said. “Our shelter is underfunded and understaffed. And it’s a really serious problem there.

Dobbs said she chose to attend Tuesday’s meeting because of a hearing scheduled for Thursday regarding a recent case of neglected animals in Troup.

“We anticipate these animals will be assigned to the county,” Dobbs said. “The problem is that there are over 20 dogs left on the property who will need to be apprehended and cared for. Unfortunately, there is no one to do that. Those 22 animals have kind of brought this to a head now because we literally can’t get out.

Smith County Pct. 4 Constable Josh Joplin was involved in the troop rescue as a courtesy after Dobbs said his calls to another neighborhood went unaddressed.

“A lot of law enforcement agencies in this area are so overwhelmed and so busy with other calls that they have a lot going on that they don’t have time to answer them, or maybe they don’t have the expertise or the knowledge on how to work this type of case,” Joplin said.

Joplin called animal cruelty a growing problem in Smith County. Smith County Animal Control and Shelter supervisor Amber Greene said concerns raised at Tuesday’s meeting could be resolved with more funding and manpower.

“Normally I have four officers working 964 square miles, and every day we handle 30 to 60 animal calls a day — just one day,” Greene said. “More funding and more staff, because that way I can finish the shelter completely as it is because we only use about 75% of it. We still have a storage room in there that we can finish.

The concerns expressed in the Smith County Commissioners Court were raised during the public comment portion of the meeting, and there were no specific agenda items related to animal control – meaning that no action was taken. Commissioners are expected to begin budget discussions at next Tuesday’s meeting.

“Until this is resolved and put on the radar of our Commissioner’s Court and the community speaks out, the Commissioners’ Court is aware that this is an important matter and that the money of the taxpayers is allocated,” Dobbs said. “This problem is only getting worse.

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