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Hays County Animal Control struggles to keep pace with population growth



Hays County Animal Control is grappling with the challenges that come with a booming population and an unprecedented increase in calls. The department’s dedicated crew, made up of only four officers, is overwhelmed by the daunting task of patrolling almost 700 square miles. To provide effective coverage, it is essential to expand the staff numbers, according to Hays County Animal Control Supervisor John Trinidad.

Trinidad highlights the importance of hiring more staff to enhance the department’s capacity to respond to calls promptly and cover more territory efficiently. “The addition of more personnel would significantly improve our operations, allowing us to cover more ground,” he said in a recent interview.

Data from the U.S. Census reveals that Hays County was among the fastest-growing counties in Texas between 2020 and 2021, according to Dallas Press News. Despite the surging population, the department’s limited resources significantly hamper its ability to address all calls quickly.

Inadequate manpower is one of the most significant challenges that the department faces. The officers’ workload is extensive and includes critical tasks such as investigating animal bites, quarantining animals suspected of having rabies, issuing citations for violations, and capturing and relocating animals to a shelter.

Moreover, the department receives frantic calls for assistance from other departments, such as the police, who apprehend individuals with animals but have no means of disposing of them. In such instances, the Animal Control Officers must collect the animal and safely transport it to the shelter.

To become Animal Control Officers, trainees must undergo a rigorous basic control course, and they must complete continuing education to enhance their skills. Trinidad emphasizes that most of their training comes from hands-on experience in the field, where they continuously learn and grow.

Trinidad recognizes that the department’s role is not limited to protecting animals; it also entails advising the community on animal health practices. “Often, we educate people on proper animal care to ensure they are taking care of their pets in the best possible way,” he said. “Most times, people do not intend to mistreat animals, but they may not be aware of the right practices.”

Animal Control Officers often face dangerous situations, particularly when responding to animals that are experiencing aggression or extreme panic. “Animals can be unpredictable, especially when you’re trying to capture them. When cornered, they can become very aggressive,” Trinidad observed.

The department responded to 345 cases of animal cruelty and neglect in 2021, 469 cases in 2022, and 88 cases in 2023, highlighting the pressing need for additional staff to assist Trinidad and his team in adequately serving the community. The department does not provide coverage on weekends, so the police department provides support, but they are also preoccupied with their duties.

Trinidad reiterates that the growing population demands the addition of more officers to enable the department to meet existing and future demands adequately. With a well-staffed department, the community can be assured of timely responses to calls and professional assistance.

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