By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Ken Hawes has completed the first phase of his animal control officer training and is now patrolling Tupelo’s streets for vicious animals.
Hawes has been the Tupelo Police Department’s animal control officer for three weeks and he has handled five vicious animal cases in as much time.
Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton said Hawes will serve as a patrol officer but with a special emphasis on vicious animal enforcement.
The city’s vicious animal ordinance says all pit bull owners must register their dogs with the city and pay a one-time $50 registration fee. From there, the owners must keep the animals in a pen with a concrete bottom, 6-foot fence and roof.
Any other animal that shows signs of aggression without being prompted can also be required to comply with the vicious animal ordinance
“I’m really doing a lot of the same thing I always have, meeting people and talking with them to make sure they’re complying with city ordinances and state laws,” Hawes said. “But I get to work with the owner and the animal instead of just working with people.”
Hawes said most animal control calls will still go through the Tupelo-Lee County Humane Society.
“If a resident calls 911 and it deals with a city ordinance, we will follow up on it,” Carleton said. “We’re coming alongside the humane society to help because (vicious animals) have become a problem. If it is a vicious animal, that’s what we’re here to enforce, but he’s not going to his job to run after cats. He’s here to handle vicious animals and animal cruelty cases.”
Hawes has completed 12 weeks of standard field training with the Tupelo Police Department as well as a week-long animal control course through the National Animal Control Association where he was trained on animal shelters and dog handling.
He will go through a second week of training in May, where he will learn about investigating animal cruelty and dog fighting.
After that, Carleton said Hawes will get certified in using a tranquilizer gun.
Hawes spent the past five years working as a law enforcement officer for the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Before that he spent 19 years as a firefighter in his hometown of Clarksdale.