Samuel Lozano

Samuel Lozano, a member of Val Verde County’s buildings and facilities staff, paints the ceiling inside the office of the county’s animal control facility. County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. said Monday he believes the county will begin its animal control efforts in mid-March.

Val Verde County’s new animal control facility could be open for business as early as mid-March, County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. said Monday.

“Members of the county’s buildings and facilities staff have been painting the floor at the facility, and they are working on the office, painting the ceiling. The bottom line is, in another week, if the weather is good, we should be completely done with the building,” Owens said.

But the county’s animal control department will be more than just a building, the county judge said.

“When this thing was put together, we set aside two positions in the county budget for animal control officers. Last week, (the county commissioners court) set aside another position, a sheriff’s deputy position,” the county judge said.

Owens said the deputy’s primary function will be animal control.

“If he’s needed to help augment the regular deputies in their duties, he can do that, too, but his primary concern is going to be animal control,” Owens said.

“My understanding is that the sheriff already has applicants for the two (animal control officer) positions, and it’s my understanding that he has reached out to three individuals to fill all three positions,” Owens said.

He added all three individuals with whom the sheriff has spoken already have all the certifications needed to operate the animal control facility. Owens said he hopes all of the positions will be filled within the next two weeks.

To bring the facility and the county’s fledgling animal control operation online, the facility also will have to pass a state inspection, Owens said.

“The sheriff has already reached out to the state, and hopefully, they’ll be coming down the latter part of February. In all reality, to get it up and running, it will probably be the middle of March,” Owens said.

The county judge said county officials are also finalizing the certification required for the drugs to euthanize dogs and cats impounded by the animal control officers.

“All that information has already been submitted. I’ve signed it and the sheriff has submitted it,” Owens said.

The county judge emphasized the focus of the new facility and staff will be animal control.

“This is going to be an animal control facility, not a shelter. We’re going to wand the animals to make sure they are not chipped, as soon as they come in. We will try to put photos of them on Facebook or on some other outlet, so if there are individuals out there that are missing a dog, there’ll be a time frame for them to look at our Facebook and see if it’s theirs, and if at all possible, we’ll try to get (the dogs) into a foster home or try to get them adopted, but realistically, with the problem we have right now, it’s going to be difficult,” Owens said.

The county’s animal control problem has been a headache for residents and elected officials for decades.

“I remember being 12 or 13 years old and the dogs there on Leonel Martinez Boulevard killing and tearing up 20 or 30 goats a night, and this was in the 1970s, so this has been an ongoing problem,” Owens said.

“Our goal is to help and do a good job with animal control, but the core problem is that these dogs keep breeding. . . And maybe the owners don’t have the money to get the dogs fixed, but I think if we set up a licensing fee, something to be able to offset the education, the spaying and neutering, I think that’s what we need to do,” the county judge said.

Owens said he believes the county’s animal control department will be busy for years to come.

“We’re able to house 10 dogs and two in quarantine. If needed, we can house 12 dogs at a time. It doesn’t sound like much, but to abide by the rules of the state, where you have to clean the cages and the dogs have to be switched from one side to another, it’s going to be difficult . . . They’re going to be busy,” Owens said.

He added there have been concerns voiced about allocating enough money for the animal control department to “do it right.”

“I don’t think we’ll ever be able to put enough money towards it. It is what it is. We’re going to do the best we can do, and I think Commissioner Flores hit the nail on the head the other day when he said, ‘We just have to start’,” Owens said.

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