By Billy Corriher
Riverdale resident Linda Granger said she's been trying to get Clayton County Animal Control to do something about the dogs running loose in her neighborhood for two years now. She said that every time she calls the animal control center, it's tough to get an officer to come out.
"I've called about three or four times," she said. "When I complain, it seems like they'll come around (to patrol the neighborhood) for a while, but then I won't see them again."
Granger said the dogs, many of them pit bulls, aren't strays but show up on her property on the weekend.
"Something needs to be done before somebody gets bitten or a child gets hurt," she said.
Capt. Jeff Turner, spokesman for the Clayton County Police Department, said the animal control center receives similar complaints from residents like Granger, but there's a limit to what the center can do with only two officers on patrol every day.
"We get calls from all over the county, but when you have two officers covering a county of 250,000 people, that's a problem," he said. "(The animal control officers) have to prioritize their calls."
Turner said that to be more responsive, the department has requested more animal control officers in the county's budget.
"It is a personnel issue," he said.
Crandle Bray, chairman of the county commissioners, said the county's budget for next year is being worked out now, and more funding for animal control is being considered.
"We're trying to deal with some of their issues," he said.
Bray said the county is expecting to finish work on its recommended budget by the beginning of May.
Commissioner Virginia Gray said something has to be done about making the animal control department more responsive to residents' concerns.
"They're not effective now," she said. "I am very frustrated with that department."
In addition to hearing from residents who have problems, Gray said she has had problems herself when trying to get animal control to round up stray dogs on her property.
"I can understand everybody's frustration," she said.
Gray said animal control instructed her to catch the dogs in a cage the center would provide, and an officer would come by and pick up the captured animals.
Turner said providing cages for residents to catch animals is a common practice at animal control. Unless the animals are already confined, he said, it's tough for the officers to get to the neighborhood in time, so the officers provide the cages or put the neighborhood on a patrol list.
"There are times when there are no calls coming in and they are supposed be on patrol checking for animals," he said.
But Gray said she thinks animal control should do more patrols so they can find stray dogs instead of waiting for residents to take action.
"I don't think it's my job to go through the neighborhood and find them," she said.
Gray also said that any time animal control does come out in response to a call, they don't spend enough time looking for the animals.
"If animal control comes over, I feel like they should take the time to find out if these dogs have an owner and if so, who they are," she said.
Turner said time for patrols is sometimes scarce because animal control officers stay busy responding to calls and dealing with animals that have been caught in the cages.
"Once the traps actually get the animal, the officer will pick up the animal," he said.
Turner said the problem with stray dogs has worsened as the county has grown because some people just drop off unwanted dogs or don't confine their pets well enough.