Tupelo Police target animal control

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton wants to hire a dedicated animal control officer to crack down on vicious dogs, and the mayor and City Council likely will back it up.
Carleton pitched the plan to the council during a Thursday afternoon work session at City Hall.
The position would cost $48,000 annually, plus nearly $25,000 in start-up costs, including training and equipment.
“It seemed like the humane society was struggling and couldn’t get enough done, couldn’t accomplish enough goals getting animals off the streets, especially vicious ones,” Carleton said. “So we can provide an officer with arrest powers who can issue citations and can assist the humane society taking care of these type of animals.”
The Tupelo-Lee Humane Society has one full-time animal control officer to patrol the entire city and respond to all calls. But that person doesn’t have police powers and therefore cannot issue citations or make arrests.
Police officers often are called as back up during particularly tense situations, Carleton said, but that requires taking someone off his or her regular beat to help.
Instead, Carleton said, the city should designate one full-time officer to work animal control, as well as be on call 24/7.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether such a position had existed prior to Carleton’s administration, which began two years ago.
Council members said they support the move and likely will vote soon to create the new position and budget the funds for it.
“I really think it’s a good step,” said Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington. “I know it’s a cost, but this is problem in the city that we’ve danced around for a long time.”