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Animal Control duties may fall on Tupelo Police

Reported by: Tyler Hill
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Updated: 8/21/2014 10:47 pm
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- Like any city, Tupelo deals with its share of animal control issues.

For years, the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society and the Tupelo Police Department have shared that responsibility, but now, a new debate raises questions about who should be in control of the service and how to pay for it.

The humane society thinks the police department should round up wild or neglected animals.

The police department is fine with that but say they'll need a lot more money to make it happen, maybe more than the city's willing to give.

Right now, they share the responsibility. The humane society has two animal control officers, and the police department has one.

But now, the humane society wants the city to do one of two things: either make the police department take over animal control or fork over another $67,000 a year for them to do it.

That's $67,000 on top of the $175,000 they already get.

"We feel like they can do a great job at that," said Tupelo-Lee Humane Society Executive Director Donna Jarrell. "We would be the shelter where they take the animals from the public."

Humane society officers are pretty much powerless - they can't write tickets or make arrests. All they can do is round up the animals.

"And sometimes they do get into situations where they do need an officer on scene," Jarrell said.

Handing the task to the police would save time and take the burden off the animal shelter, something several city council members agree with.

"I think the presentation was very, very good," said Councilman Buddy Palmer. "But I don't think the police department is on board."

Police chief Bart Aguirre wouldn't mind taking on the task, but it will cost.

He estimates he'll need at least $70,000 a year to pay for two more animal control officers, plus another $70,000 to train and equip them.

"It's definitely gonna cost at least twice as much as the humane society is asking for now," Aguirre said.

Bottom line, somebody has to handle animal control for the city, and it looks like either way, the taxpayers are the ones who will get bit.

Both the humane society and the police department said they have a great working relationship.

They want to make sure animal control is taken care of both effectively and efficiently, but it all comes down to how to get the job done for the least amount of money.

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