Humane officer worth more than #036;25 a month

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 19, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

Animal cruelty is a serious crime that, unfortunately, often has to take a backseat to the crimes we humans commit against one another.

We expect our law enforcement agencies to protect us and, when having to choose between people and animals, they should take care of human matters first. The agencies simply do not have enough officers to handle all of the complaints.

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However, the Lawrence County Humane Society has a solution that could offer protection to both humans and animals - hiring a humane officer. The officer is solely responsible for investigating animal abuse and neglect cases. In addition to the mistreatment of animals, they would look into other matters such as poorly operated kennels and dog and chicken fighting.

Although the position pays more in some counties, state law requires the county to only pay a humane officer $25 per month, what the Lawrence County Commission has committed to the position. In the past, though, the county freed up $6,000 to pay the humane officer.

The Lawrence County Commission has balked at committing more funds to the position now, citing budgetary concerns. While we understand it would be difficult to find an extra $475 a month in the current budget, it would behoove the commission to look at ways to free up some cash to pay for the position in the next budget.

Sure, it is difficult to justify taking on another expenditure when you are already working on a tight budget, but let's take a look at the benefit. Rather than sending a sheriff's deputy out into the county to investigate an animal complaint, the humane officer could be dispatched and advised of the situation. This would free up the deputy to devote his or her time to other matters that many would consider more important. Besides, Sheriff Tim Sexton has said his office is understaffed, so having one less thing to worry about could help out quite a bit.

Who would want to take on the responsibilities of the humane agent for a mere $25 a month? Eventually burnout would take over, no matter how dedicated they are.

Nevertheless, we urge the county commission to give the position serious consideration when preparing next year's budget and not just say "we don't have the money."