Director: County will receive more services with state’s animal control takeover

GEORGETOWN — Effective Jan. 1, 2016, the State of Delaware will assume animal control duties from Sussex County and other counties through the Division of Public Health’s new Office of Animal Welfare.

Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett, R-Frankford, wants assurance that the County will receive all services its pays for at a monthly $56,885 cost – the same amount as presently paid in the County’s contract with Camden-based First State Animal Center/SPCA.

“Costs remain the same. I want to ensure that we do not lose any services, to receive proper services we are paying for,” said Mr. Arlett at the Dec. 8 council meeting.

Hettie Brown, Executive Director of the Office of Animal Welfare, believes Sussex County will actually get more bang for its buck.

“I would even argue that your services are going to increase to your citizens. You are gaining additional services that you may not have had in the past,” said Ms. Brown, who provided County Council and leaders with an update on the state takeover. “We will be enforcing all animal control, animal cruelty and rabies laws in the state and then partnering with a shelter partner who has experience in animal sheltering, rehabilitation and adoption for the care of animals that come into our service.”

At the Dec. 8 meeting, County Council approved a memorandum of understanding presented by County Finance director Gina Jennings that authorizes the state to assume dog control duties and responsibility, effective Jan. 1, 2016.

“Until legislation updates the state code removing the authority of dog control under the three counties it is recommended that the County Council enter into a memorandum of understanding that transfers the county’s authority of dog control to the office of Animal Welfare,” said Ms. Jennings.

Dog licensing, currently handled by the County, will also fall under the state’s umbrella, with online and offline ordering options.

The OAW will offer a statewide hotline, a website and an email address.

In January, the state plans to launch its first-ever “Lost and Found” pet registry.

“That’s very exciting,” said Ms. Brown.

Additional services include stray livestock and dealing with injured animals.

“An animal control agency will provide response to stray livestock, which has not been the case recently. State police get the calls, they are not happy about that,” said Ms. Brown. “We have livestock handlers on our team.”

OAW will also respond to situations “where an animal that is not covered under dog control is injured or hurt … which is not happening now,” Ms. Brown added. “We are going to be providing some additional resources to the public.”

The OAW staff includes approximately 20 trained officers statewide delivering services, as well as dispatchers. Tentatively, seven officers will be assigned cover to Sussex County, with the field office based at the Stockley Center in Georgetown.

Fulltime and part-time staffing will offer 24-7 service. Regular hours are Monday through Friday, and after hours calls will be triaged and dispatched when necessary.

County Councilman George Cole asked about response time.

“We will have a team of officers that live here and work here, which enables them to provide more localized service to your citizens,” said Ms. Brown. “We’ve been working very closely with the National Animal Care and Control Association. We have received protocols now putting into place. We will be prioritizing calls based on their emergency situation, whether a human is in imminent danger or animal. We will triage calls accordingly.”

For shelter service, the OAW will partner with Pennsylvania-based Chester County SPCA, which has a Delaware operation: a 13,000-square-foot permanent shelter in New Castle, with plans to lease shelter kennel space in Sussex and Kent counties to provide local services, Ms. Brown said.

“All animals taken in by officers will stay in Delaware,” said Ms. Brown.

All fulltime OAW officers went through the Delaware State Constable Academy, and have state constable certification.

“All of our officers, part-time and fulltime have also completed the state animal control and cruelty officer certification training, which includes field training and expert animal handling training. Also DELJIS (Delaware Criminal Justice Information System) training, plus training by the president of the National Animal Care and Control Association on community animal control. We will continue training as we see fit,” said Ms. Brown.

OAW officers have 94-plus years with police/law enforcement, Ms. Brown said, adding that the staff includes someone with experience with livestock as well as a former DNREC employee with experience in wildlife handling.

“We have a wide variety of experience. We are confident we will have the right people on the ground to service your citizens,” said Ms. Brown.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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