Residents upset with lack of animal control

By Reggie Ellis

A dog chasing a mailman down the street may seem like a silly stereotype, but it was no laughing matter in Farmersville.

Letter carriers delivering mail on Rose Avenue have been terrorized by dogs for the last several years. Postmaster Diana Waymire said they have been "chased down the street and onto top of their cars" by one resident's dogs. The resident continued to ignore warnings to restrain the dog, and the small but vicious terrier continued to go after them.

Al Vanderslice, who owns Speed Frame around the corner, was bitten by the dog twice in a few months. Other neighbors said they had friends who were fearful to walk down the street. Those who lived on the street had resorted to spraying the dog with a hose or trying to hit it with a stick to prevent it from attacking others.

Despite their efforts, the problem became so bad that Waymire had to issue a notice on Aug. 22 to all residents on Rose Avenue that mail would no longer be delivered to houses on the street. "While we regret having to inconvenience the entire neighborhood because of the thoughtlessness of a few individuals, it is necessary to protect the safety of our carriers. Every year thousands of letter carriers are injured because of dog bites and attacks. These are serious injuries and have frequently disabled carriers for weeks and even months," the letter read.

The letter gave residents three alternatives for retrieving their mail: obtain a P.O. Box at the post office, install a centrally located mail receptacle or remove the dog from the premises. The post office also offered to hold mail for 10 days until one of the above options was chosen. The dog's owner finally caged the animal last week and mail delivery resumed on Aug. 31.

But the incident underscores a larger problem of stray dogs and unleashed dogs throughout the city. At the May 23 City council meeting, a group of Freedom Elementary School parents told the council that there are 10 loose, unattended, unleashed dogs surrounding the bus stop on Ash Street.

"I can't see that it would be that big of a cost to send someone out to take care of it," said Vanderslice, former mayor and current school board member.

At the May 23 Farmersville City Council meeting, City Manager Renee Miller said the costs of paying a dog catcher, providing a fueled vehicle and dropping off the animal at the Valley Oak SPCA in Visalia were running up to an average of $1,000 a month. Included with that cost was the city's contracted agreement with the SPCA wherein residents from Farmersville could bring in stray dogs at no cost to the individual. Instead, the city was charged $22 per animal brought in from the city limits along with a smaller daily fee while the dog was held. The contract was later terminated, forcing resident to pay a $20 fee for the SPCA to accept an animal.

"Something needs to be done," said Claude Criswell, who lives on the street. "They need to bring back the darn dog catcher."

The City of Farmersville eliminated its part-time animal control position - along with park maintenance, code enforcement officer and youth sports programs - last summer as part of the effort to balance the city's budget, which began the year with an $83,000 deficit in the General Fund. The General Fund covers all costs not earmarked for specific programs and projects, such as city council, administrative costs, building inspections, police, fire and animal control.

"We have balanced the budget, but without services that a city would normally provide," Councilmember Paul Boyer said. Boyer said the person who worked part-time as animal control has been moved to working strictly in public works and solid waste management, which are not funded through the General Fund.

In order to improve its finances, the city put two measures on the November 2004 ballot. Measure U, a one-half cent sales tax increase to 7.25%, was approved by 63% of voters. The measure is estimated to bring the city a total of $200,000 from September of this year through September 2006. However, Measure U will only generate half of the money needed to pull Farmersville out of its deficit. The other, Measure V, a $6 utility tax increase, was narrowly defeated. Together the two measures would have provided Farmersville with about $250,000 annually.

"We have done the best with what we have," Boyer said.

The city is again pushing a utility tax on this November's ballot. Measure G would enact a 4% utility users tax to "restore and ensure essential government functions including animal control, police, fire, park facilities maintenance, and other general fund services continue in the future." The measure would pass with a simple majority. Without it, Boyer said it may never be possible for the city to provide the services it needs to for a growing community.

"We are the only other city besides Visalia that doesn't have a utility tax," Boyer said. "So we can balance the budget by cutting services or people can pass this. It's really their choice."

In the meantime, because of the number of complaints, the Farmersville City Council will discuss the idea of having at least a part-time person dedicated to animal control at its next meeting. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 12. The Farmersville City Council meets on the second and fourth Monday of each month at city hall, located at 909 W. Farmesrville Blvd.

Start typing and press Enter to search