Animal Control services within the county have become an issue of both controversy and challenge.

Who do you call, or what action do you take if you are threatened by a stray or otherwise nuisance animal, or if you see any animal being abused or neglected?

According to the county’s own log as provided, the residents of the City of Carrabelle made 19 animal control calls for service through Nov. 2019, fewer than two per month. According to Apalachicola City Manager Ron Nalley, they had 33 calls, an average of three per month.

So, for the first 11 months of 2019, both cities had a combined total of 52 calls, averaging 4.73 calls per month for both cities combined; that is just over one call per week for both cities combined. Carrabelle had 1.73 calls per month and Apalachicola averaged three calls per month. (The figure for unincorporated areas is unknown at this time.)

Now, the incorporated cities of Apalachicola and Carrabelle are suddenly being held hostage for additional tax monies to be paid to the county in order that animal control coverage shall be continued within those municipalities. According to a Dec. 5, 2019 letter from County Coordinator Michael Morón, “If the City of Carrabelle and the City of Apalachicola want to remain in the County’s Animal Control Officer service area the following, as requested by the Board of County Commissioners, must be agreed to:

1. Contribute $3,500 to the county’s animal control budget this fiscal year.

2. Contribute $7,000 to the county’s animal control budget next and subsequent fiscal years.

3. All city related animal control calls will go to the city's police department. The responding police officer will determine if the animal control officer is needed and will make contact with the officer on duty at that time.

With the exception of adding an animal control officer on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the city’s police officers responding to calls, prior to the animal control officer, the level of service will remain the same. The county animal control department only responds to calls for domestic animals (cats and dogs).

At Tuesday’s board of county commissioners regular meeting, Attorney Shuler was directed, by motion, to start the process of amending the County’s Animal Control Ordinance to remove from the service area any of the two cities that didn’t agree to the board’s request. If your intent is to remain part of the county’s animal control service area, I will need written notice, preferably by email, by 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019.”

Please note two cities were thus provided a 24-hour notice to approve this extortion-like payment!

Tax monies collected from throughout the entire county do indeed support the animal control services; someone from Lanark, St James, Gulf Terrace, SummerCamp, Alligator Point, Eastpoint and St George Island as well as Apalachicola and Carrabelle has the right to expect a response for some kind of help with a rogue animal. (It is important to note that the county’s own ordinance does Not limit animal control services to dogs and cats only, although County Coordinator Morón writes that only dogs and cat calls will be handled.)

According to accounting provided by county finance; “The contribution to the animal control budget as calculated by a percentage of the burden on ad valorem proceeds generated within the city limits by the county is as follows:

City of Carrabelle: $174,082 total animal control budget multiplied by 5.57 percent of taxable value, which equals $9,696

City of Apalachicola: $174,082 total animal control budget multiplied by 7.84 percent of taxable value, which equals $13,648

So it can be easily seen that county ad valorem taxes support animal control services. The city of Carrabelle already pays their 5.6 percent revenue share on all taxable property values

Now, our county commissioners want to hold the two cities hostage for additional revenues to support animal control services without which, it is threatened, all such services will be denied to city taxpayers who are already paying for them!

County commissioners legitimately expressed concern for the human interactions that too often occurs on animal control calls. That must not happen; of course, safety of all should be a primary concern. But the services of an animal control officer is vital to our communities, whether for threats about dogs or intrusive raccoons. There should never be interference from neighborhood residents toward animal control or police officers doing their jobs responding to a call for help.

But residents and visitors must be assured that animal control services will be available to all when needed. City police are expected to answer animal control calls, although local police phones are not usually answered on nights and weekends, so dispatch then becomes the responsibility of the sheriff’ s office. Whether in Carrabelle or St George Island, the current county ordinance provides for response to animal control calls for all taxpayers on an equal basis.

Now, county commissioners have directed preparation of a new ordinance to charge the cities of Carrabelle and Apalachicola an additional $7,000 in annual tax funds to service that approximately one call per week for both cities, or 0.05 calls per week to each municipality. Further, they have demanded immediate payment of $3,500 additional tax dollars from each city for animal control services. Please watch for notice of the required public hearing before that ordinance can be approved, and voice your opinion about any need for more taxpayer monies to service a reported total of 52 animal control calls for 2019; less than one service call per week for each of our two cities.

What’s wrong with that picture?

Mel Kelly

Proud mayor of Carrabelle 2005-07