By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Some are dropped off by folks hoping a kind farmer will take them in.
Some are strays that have wandered.
Others are pets allowed to roam freely.
Whatever the reason, animals running at large in rural Curry County are an issue the Curry County Sheriff’s Office deals with on a regular basis.
Undersheriff Wesley Waller said deputies take an average of five calls a week from residents reporting dogs and cats running loose.
The majority of calls, he said, are biting or aggressive animals that sometimes chase or kill livestock.
“We attempt to identify the owner and educate them as to their responsibilities for containing the animals,” Waller said. “If the problem persists or there is an incident with the animal, enforcement action is considered depending on the circumstances.”
Under state law and county ordinance, owners of animals found running at large in the county can be cited and fined.
In cases where an owner cannot be found, the animal is feral or an incident has occurred, Waller said the county has a contract with the Clovis Animal Shelter to take animals.
Shelter Supervisor Louisa Maestas said her officers, with approval from a police department supervisor, will pick up animals in the county that have already been captured and transport them to the shelter.
The county pays the city $20 per transport during shelter hours and $30 a transport after hours.
“We have absolutely no jurisdiction outside the city and that’s the reason why we have to do it this way,” she said.
Because of the cost associated with transport and the need for supervisory approval, Maestas said typically, animal control officers are only called out for aggressive or sick or injured animals.
“It has to be for a good reason; they just don’t call us and tell us to go pick up every dog,” she said.
Maestas said citizens turning in animals from the county are also required to pay a $6 fee. “Not very many people want to pay a fee,” she said. “When I tell them there’s a fee, they never show back up.”
County residents often tell shelter staff they have found animals that have been dropped off near their property.
Some even bring in entire litters of kittens or puppies that have been left in boxes on their property.
Maestas said many people believe if they leave animals in the country, a rancher or farmer will take them in, which is rarely the case.
A lot of them will starve to death, she said, get hit by cars, be killed by larger animals or turn to scavengers and begin attacking livestock and causing problems in residential neighborhoods.