Harrison County taxpayers pay thousands for stray animals

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County Sheriff's Department is one of the few agencies in the state that has an animal control officer on duty seven days a week. Those officers respond to, on average, 216 calls a month.

"We know animals are animals. They are going to get out. But when they don't wait for them to come back to you, go out there, look for them," Animal Control Officer Brad Necaise said. "Leaving your dog out there you are opening yourself up both criminally and civilly.

Pet owners can be ticketed if their animals are roaming the streets without a leash or on someone else's property without permission. Even worse your pet could hurt someone or it could end up dead.

"It can be a very dangerous situation, knock on wood, in my 14 and a half years I have been bitten twice," Necaise said.

"A great dog in your home can become an aggressive dog that we are no longer able to re-home," Krystyna Szczechowski with the Humane Society for South Mississippi said, "Which means if you are not here for your dog then unfortunately it's not adoptable so your dog could ultimately face euthanasia."

So far this year animal control officers have responded to more than 1,900 calls and have brought 834 cats and dogs to the humane society. For the first five days the animals are in the shelter taxpayers foot the bill.

Harrison County Patrol Sgt. Charles Overstreet said, "The sheriff's office, Gulfport and Biloxi, other agencies in the county spend hundreds and thousands of dollars for the welfare of the dogs we take custody of."

"If we could keep all the strays out we would be bringing in 5,000 animals in a year verse 11,000," Szczechowski said, "Our adoptions program adopts 5,000 a year so the problem would be solved."

Only one out of every four dogs brought into the shelter as a stray are returned to its owner.

"As a no-profit the truly homeless animals is what our mission is geared towards, but we are pouring all of our resources into animals that we know have homes," Szczechowski said.

To help cut back on the animal problem and save the county money deputies and humane society officials recommend pet owners get their animals microchiped and have them spayed or neutered.

"It's a joint effort between us and the community to be able to keep the people and the pets safe," Necaise said.@

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