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Q:          I have cats coming into my garage at night. Can I call the Animal Control Officer to come take care of the problem?

A:          The City of Robinson does not have a policy of handling cats. Beginning October 1, 2011, the City will no longer absorb the $75.00 cost of pets being surrendered to the Humane Society of Central Texas (HSCT) except when it is surrendered by the Robinson Police Department. The cost for a resident to surrender a cat to the HSCT will be $75.00 each, with each kitten and puppy in a litter being consider an individual cat or dog. The resident is responsible for paying the $75.00 fee and the fee is regulated by the HSCT, not the Robinson Police Department.

               The Robinson Police Department's animal control personnel will continue to address sick and injured cats and dogs on public property and may, on a case-by-case basis, handle cats or dogs on private property. It would be very unusual for the police department to handle a cat on private property. Dogs often fall under the City's leash law and are handled differently than cats.

               The roles and duties of animal control personnel vary widely. In Robinson, the animal control officer (ACO) is a member of the police department. They are trained and equipped to handle animal-related calls. In other communities the ACO may belong to an entirely separate municipal department, such as the health division.

               Animals that are a health issue take priority over all other ACO calls for service. An example of a health issue involving cats could be a cat that is injured, sickly, or perhaps even infected with rabies. Always call the ACO if you suspect a stray animal is sick.

              Generally speaking, if someone has a stray cat on their property, the property owner should take a couple of simple steps to try and alleviate the problem. Feeding a stray animal just keeps the animal coming back for more. We ask property owners to not feed any animal that does not belong to them.

              Many calls we receive regarding skunks occur because the skunk has found a ready supply of food outside the residence. While the food is intended for the family’s pet, skunks love feeding on this food too.

               Property owners can also prevent stray animals from becoming a problem by keeping windows and doors closed. Blocking or plugging holes that would allow stray animals into areas where they are not wanted, such as under a residence or into a building, can also prevent strays from becoming a problem. We often receive calls about cats nesting in garages and find a simple solution to this problem is simply lowering the garage door.

               If these steps have been followed and a stray animal is still a problem, then contact the ACO by calling the Robinson Police Department at 662-0525. The ACO will contact the property owner and explore the best solution to the problem. The best solution may require the resident or business owner to take all the steps necessary to alleviate their stray animal problem with the ACO being the last resort for helping with the problem. This article cannot address every stray animal problem so calling the ACO to discuss your individual stray animal problem is encouraged.

               Stereotypes die hard, but the image of the typical animal control officer has changed remarkably. Long lampooned by cartoons as net-carrying villains, animal control officers are now considered on the frontline of protecting a community's pets and wild animals. With that being said, the animal control officer can only protect those areas they have authority to control and that is normally public property only unless there is a violation of a city or state ordinance.
              The job requires investigating all bite cases, reports of cruelty and neglect and to handle all suspected rabid animals. They pick up dead or injured animals on public right-of-ways, as well as removing stray animals to the HSCT where they may be adopted or euthanized.

              It's a far cry from simply being the city's "dog catcher." Police and city officials call on ACOs day and night to answer calls from the routine to the bizarre. In Robinson the ACO does not work nights and, unless the call for service involves a dangerous situation, the call may have to wait until the ACO is available the next day or even after the weekend. Because they are not trained in animal control, police officers often cannot and should not handle animal control problems unless the problem involves an immediate danger to someone.

              On occasion, ACO may mediate disputes between neighbors when barking dogs or roaming cats create a public nuisance. And, of course, they do pick up strays on public property. It's a job ACOs don't relish, which is why the National Animal Control Association strongly urges owners to have their pets well identified with tags, microchips and other methods.

              The role of the animal control officer is an evolving one. Indeed, the stereotype of the dog-chasing municipal officer was not far off the mark, explains Jim Weverka, a spokesman for NACA. He says that ACO became necessary as people moved from rural areas to the cities, and wanted to own a dog. This was especially true for certain breeds that became popular in movies and television shows. Many of these dogs, bought on impulse, wound up on the streets or surrendered to the local authorities.

              As a final remark, stray cats on private property are the responsibility of the property owner. If a cat is sick or injured, the ACO may be able to suggest ways the property owner can removal of the cat, but the animal is still the owner's responsibility because the animal is on private property.