A new puppy brings much joy to children, but it also brings with it responsibilities that a child may not understand without parents teaching them not only care of the animal but also the requirements to ensure its safety, health and rules that must be followed.
One of those rules is keeping pets secured within the owner’s property. The City of Durant has in place ordinances that govern animals of all kinds and it is the responsibility of owners to abide by those laws. The ordinances were put in place to control pets from running at large and protect the public from vicious animals and those who are otherwise a nuisance. Enforcing those ordinances are two full time animal control officers who are on duty during daylight hours.
Mark Lasiter and Jim Vandergraff have the responsibility of enforcement and they are directly accountable to the Chief of Police Durward Cook. They maintain an animal shelter and pound near the city land fill east of town where an average of five to six stray animals are kept, although at times those numbers are larger.
Animals running loose are a concern of all residents of the city, especially when those animals may become violent or spread disease. Lasiter said the term “secure” is a little vague, but it means the animal must be contained within a fence, on a leash or chain and the animal cannot leave the owner’s premises. Dogs may be taken for walks, but must be on a leash and controlled.
Last year animal control picked up 865 dogs and that number is trending down so far this year. Most of the dogs picked up were adopted out, according to Lasiter. The animals are kept for three days to allow owners to claim them before they are euthanized by a local veterinarian. The cost of adopting a dog is $10 and there is no requirement that they be spayed or neutered although many communities have that requirement.
According to city requirements all animals must also be vaccinated for rabies, but Lasiter said very few owners follow that rule.
“The only way we could enforce that requirement would be to go house to house,” he said.
The Oklahoma Spay Network does have reduced services for low income families in Bryan County. For residents who qualify they can have their dogs spayed or neutered and rabies shots for $35. The cost for cats is lower. Appointments may be made by calling 580-924-5873.
Animal control will put out traps for cats that have become a nuisance. While cats fall under the same rule as dogs on being secure, Lasiter said it is much harder to contain a cat.
One resident said a woman moved into his neighborhood with eight cats and would let them roam all over the neighborhood. After asking the woman to contain her cats, animal control was called and three were trapped and taken to the shelter. The lady claimed her cats a few days later and paid an impound fee. Fines can also be levied, but Lasiter said that seldom works, because some of the owners already have warrants out for their arrest in some other case and they just leave town.
Residents who want to report dogs or cats running loose should not call 911 unless there is a threat from the animal, according to Lasiter. The number for the dispatcher in all non-emergencies is 924-3737. Pet owners can also be fined for dogs that continuously bark after being issued warnings.
Animal control is also responsible for investigating cases of animal cruelty, although Lasiter said in his four years on the job he has only had one case prosecuted.
“Animal cruelty is hard to prove,” he said.
The current facility to house animals is adequate, although it’s getting old, according to Lasiter. He said the city has only had to buy two bags of dog food in the past two years, because of donations from local suppliers.
For those concerned about the growing population of pit bulldogs in some areas of the city, Lasiter said the city could not enact any ordinance targeting any specific breed in the State of Oklahoma. Some states do require owners of certain breeds carry liability insurance.
Before becoming a pet owner people need to take into consideration the costs associated with owning a pet and the responsibilities they incur when obtaining an animal.