Free pet services event canceled




Councilman C. Britt Herrington (right) and Burke County Animals Services Director, Chaddrick Parrish, (left) debated about why Waynesboro should have to consider reopening their former animal shelter, thereby duplicating the service. Along with Former Mayor Bill Tinley, Herrington pointed out that Waynesboro residents pay county taxes with an expectation to receive county services as well.

Councilman C. Britt Herrington (right) and Burke County Animals Services Director, Chaddrick Parrish, (left) debated about why Waynesboro should have to consider reopening their former animal shelter, thereby duplicating the service. Along with Former Mayor Bill Tinley, Herrington pointed out that Waynesboro residents pay county taxes with an expectation to receive county services as well.

As dissatisfaction mounts over the cost of contracting with the county for animal services, a public no-cost pet care event was canceled.

Residents will not benefit from free veterinary services this summer after local veterinarian Dr. Sarah Ford expressed concerns the clinic would create competition for her business.

Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) is a United States Department of Defense military training opportunity. Through the program, medical missions are trained for deployment by offering no-cost healthcare to communities. There are no income guidelines and no identification is required to benefit from the healthcare, dental, optometry, public health education and veterinary care. No one is turned away.

The IRT plans to set up at the Burke County animal shelter were halted when Ford asked that the vet services be limited to low-income people only. She also requested that the county’s sheltered and adopted animals first priority for spaying and neutering services. Through an agreement with the County, Ford provides spaying and neutering services at a discounted price.

As of Monday, discussions about whether IRT will perform the surgeries on the sheltered and adopted animals were still taking place. However, vaccine and other pet services are now canceled for the general public.

According to the executive director of the CSRA Regional Commission, Andy Crosson, the IRT elected not to offer vet services, including no-cost vaccines, spays and neuters, because of Ford’s concerns they would create competition for her private business.

“For years, I have tried to keep my prices very affordable so that anyone should be able to afford vet care regardless of their income. It takes a lot of planning (and sometimes sacrificing) to make this happen. When the county comes in and gives away services that I offer, it disrupts the balance of what I have tried very hard to achieve,” Ford wrote in an email, responding to the announcement that the clinic was coming to Burke County.

County-City Contracts

While, Ford is concerned about free services undermining her business, others are complaining about the increased costs of animal control.

Waynesboro Mayor James Chick Jones says the contracted agreement for the county to provide animal services is not working.

The subject was a topic of a special called meeting April 30. However, the theme is often discussed during city council meetings held by the outlying cities as well. The issue of stray animals is a county-wide problem. Generally, Animal Services does not respond to calls unless an animal is vicious or has bitten someone. In that case, they are required to respond by law. The cities may contract with the County to pick up non-aggressive animals for $200 per call; a fee many complain is too expensive. The alternative is for people or police officers to bring stray animals to the shelter for no cost.

“There has got to be a way that animal control is going to be more effective,” suggested Jones and expressed his understanding that the county department is not always responding when called. Animals Services Director, Chaddrick Parrish denied the allegation.

“The way the original agreement was worked out is that your officers would respond first and then they are the ones that would decide if they could handle it or if they contact us,” he retorted.

Former Mayor Bill Tinley weighed in with an argument he often cites when it comes to the county’s handling of garbage collection. He believes residents who live in the city should see some benefit from the county funding to which they contribute.

“We are county taxpayers too,” he stated.

Parrish pointed to Waynesboro Police Officers’ failure to find out who owns the dogs, as a contributing factor to the debate. Also, sometimes Animal Services responds to calls of a vicious animal that upon officers’ arrival is anything but a danger.

While Parrish also pointed out the $200 does not cover all the costs of caring for a sheltered stray, County Manager Merv Waldrop said the $200 fee helps ensure that animal services officers are responding only when needed.

“Don’t call us when you just have a dog running down the street,” he said. “If you want us to pick up every dog running down the street, call us, we will pick them up and send you a bill. I don’t think you want that.”

Midville also contracts with the county. Sardis’s contract is still in the works. In Keysville, public meetings have included discussions about shooting dogs found running at large, since they cannot afford the $200 per call fee.

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