Wright City’s animal control under review

Adam Rollins, Staff Writer
Posted 5/24/22

Wright City aldermen and a regional animal control company are debating how best to approach animal control services as the city experiences rapid growth. At issue is how quickly and competently the …

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Wright City’s animal control under review

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Wright City aldermen and a regional animal control company are debating how best to approach animal control services as the city experiences rapid growth. At issue is how quickly and competently the city is able to respond to loose animals that can be a nuisance or a danger to public safety.

Wright City contracts with S&R Animal Control out of Montgomery County for services, as do several other rural towns in the region. However, that service doesn’t include immediate, on-demand response to immediate problems, such as loose or aggressive dogs, city officials said during a discussion last week. That job instead falls to city police officers who don’t have any specific animal control training.

“We do not have an adequate system in place for someone, in real time, to respond and address an animal issue,” said police Lt. Tim Matthews. He explained that because of location and the way S&R Animal Control is set up, their response time to Wright City is often several hours.

“If we have a vicious dog loose in a neighborhood, we send officers to that. Our officers will try to mitigate that and bring it to a resolution the best they can,” Matthews said. “The police department is equipped with a canine catch pole, but we do not have any specific training in how to combat vicious animals. ... We have a cage on the side of the building where we do temporary storage until a response time from S&R.”

The challenge of animal response was presented during a discussion of S&R Animal Control’s contract fees with Wright City.

Company owner Ann Howard came to the board of aldermen on May 12 to ask for a fee increase, which she said her company hasn’t done since 2014.

“Since 2014, you guys have doubled (in size),” Howard said. “I put a pencil to it, and I actually have been losing money every time I come to Wright City.”

Howard explained that S&R’s business model is to provide a set number of patrols in a town — in this case, eight per month — and catch animals or set traps whenever appropriate. S&R also responds to specific issue calls, but may take one or more days to do so.

Mayor Michelle Heiliger estimated that more than half of S&R’s patrols in the city don’t lead to any animal captures, according to reports provided by the company. Aldermen asked if that operating model could be changed if the city is going to modify the contract.

“Instead of you guys just coming out and patrolling, could you just be on a retainer, so that if an animal is reported, we can just call you to come out and get the animal?” asked Alderman Ramiz Hakim.

Howard said that could potentially be possible, but a hybrid model working with local police would be more feasible for the company.

Aldermen requested the business prepare a proposal for on-demand animal response, while the city examines its own in-house response procedures. The topic will likely be revisited at a future public meeting.

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