On Tuesday, the Lee County commissioners approved transferring enforcement authority from the Lee Health Department to the Sheriff’s Office, effective by July 1, 2011.
With this decision, deputies will have the power to enforce animal control laws in Lee County. Previously, workers from the Lee Health Department were charged with dispensing the regulations, but some complained that, without being an officer of the law, they were restricted in their enforcement abilities.
A Board of Health subcommittee has been brainstorming revisions to the policy for more than a year, lobbying changes that would toughen tethering and enclosure guidelines, ban dogs without leashes in public places and require microchipping for animals that have escaped more than once, among other proposed revisions.
“I think it’s something that’s badly needed,” said Lee County Manager John Crumpton. “Once we pass the new ordinance, hopefully in March, we’re going to need to have teeth behind it.”
Crumpton said administration of the county’s animal shelter will remain with the Health Department, but officials will create three new positions in the Sheriff’s Office to handle enforcement.
One of those positions will begin immediately, he said, with two more in place by the July 1 start of the next fiscal year. The first position will be covered by lapsed salary expenses in the 2010-2011 budget, although Sanford city officials are expected to chip in for half of the nearly $60,000 in costs for the two additional spots.
County commissioners are expected to consider the full list of changes to local animal control regulations later this year. Two public information sessions have already been held on the revisions, with the final meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Broadway Elementary.