COLUMBIA — Boone County Animal Control is working to expand the area it covers.
In a Boone County Commission work session, the Columbia/Boone County Health Department began planning how it would address areas outside of Columbia’s city limits that have animal control concerns.
With the city’s rapid growth, animal control has a larger coverage area than it had in previous years. Many animal control regulations were in effect only inside the city limits. But with several areas newly annexed into the city, animal control’s duties have expanded.
“You could live on one side of the street and be covered by a city ordinance and live on the opposite side and have nothing,” said Molly Aust, a senior animal control officer. Although there has been an increase in population due to Columbia’s growth, animal control has no plans to add officers. There are currently six animal control officers in Boone County who work seven days a week.
“Animal control officers are always busy,” Aust said.
The division also began taking animal complaints in Ashland after the land that the city’s pound was on was sold, said Ashland police Sgt. Robert Wescott.
Boone County officials are working on a pilot program to determine how the animal control division will handle the costs of animal control in Ashland.
One problem Aust sees is that Ashland is farther from other areas the division covers.
“You have to consider the time it takes to get to Ashland,” she said. Aust estimated it will take about an hour to an hour and a half for an officer to address a complaint in Ashland.
Wescott said he doesn’t think adding Ashland will present a problem. He said Ashland officers will likely continue to respond to animal control complaints as they have in the past. Animals will be held in kennels until animal control officers arrive, he said.
In the meeting, county commissioners also discussed a potential increase in animal control complaints because of the Humane Society’s new drop-off fee. Since Oct. 15, the Humane Society has charged $20 for each animal and a reduced fee for hamsters and rabbits. Aust worried that the fee will result in more work for animal control officers. Some people who cannot afford the fee may release their animals or let animal control officers impound them, she said.
Patty Forister, executive director of the Humane Society, said the fee has not presented a problem so far.
“If a person really cares about an animal, the fee is not going to deter them,” she said. She hopes the fee will push people to find a suitable home for the animals.
“We always want to be the last resort,” Forister said.