County considering takeover of animal control

Hamblen County may soon be in the animal control business.

County Mayor Bill Brittain made a proposal Tuesday night to the County Commission that the county look at hiring four auxiliary deputies that would be animal control officers and handle all animal control hours 24 hours a day.

The service has been historically conducted by the Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society, but that is about to end, Britain said.

“They are going out of the animal control business,” he said.

Brittain said the humane society planned to end their animal control service.

Pam Velder, executive director of the Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society, said the animal shelter will still be taking any animals the officers picked up.

“The animals are our No. 1 priority and they will be taken care of,” she said

Velder said the reason for stopping the service was because they found some situations where those in humane society did not have the authority.

“It’s for law enforcement and we’re not a law enforcement agency,” she said.

She said in surrounding counties the humane society does not act as animal control, so it’s more of a realignment on how others handle the service.

Velder said she had no timeline on when the humane society will stop animal control.

“We’re giving them time to transition,” she said. “It will be month-to-month.”

The proposal that Brittain gave the commission Tuesday night would mean the county would hire four animal control officers, one director and three officers.

All animal control officers would undergo law enforcement training and be deputized, giving them the authority to cite or arrest depending upon the situation. Brittain said he had spoken with Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnagin about the proposal and the sheriff had signed off on it.

He said he based his proposal off Greene County, which already had a similar system.

Brittain said he would hire the officers and they would report directly to him. Part of the money for hiring would come from $150,000 the county usually gives to the humane society. He said the county would keep that money to help pay for animal control and he said he planned on speaking with the city to see if they would also spend $150,000 for animal control efforts.

“We would have 24-hour animal control,” he said. “It’s a win-win for us.”

He said it would mean better response time, better trained officers and better coverage.

The proposal would also include a $1 charge for rabies collections. Brittain said that money could be used to buy things such as animal control trucks.

The budget committee for the Hamblen County Commission took no action Tuesday on the proposal. Brittain said the commission will look at the proposal again at a later date.