Durant Animal Control officer Mark Lasiter said he knows the public thinks poorly of his department and himself but wants to remind the community of why the Animal Control is here and of the responsibilities owners have to their pets.
Lasiter referred to a statement released by the National Animal Control Association named “I am your Animal Control Officer.”
“I am not the dreaded ‘dog catcher’ or the ‘murderer’ you call me,” the statement says. It reminds readers that the animal control officers are not the ones who leave pets to roam free and get hurt and sick.
They are also not the ones who abandon unwanted litters or breed and fight dogs. The statement reminds readers that the animal control officers are the ones who have to find the abandoned animals, enforce laws against abuse and neglect as well as “put to sleep” wounded or vicious animals.
“We want people to understand what we do,” said Lasiter. He said the animal control officer’s main duty is to protect the animals as well as citizens of Durant.
Lasiter said the things he wants citizens to remember are what to do when a dog bites, what to do when a “stray” is found and the responsibilities owners have for their own dogs.
With this in mind Lasiter said he wanted to clear up some misconceptions about the Durant Animal Control beginning with dog bites.
Lasiter said it seems people may not know what to do if they are bitten by a dog or if their dog bites somebody.
He revealed that in the past few months he has received two calls about dog bites that could not be handled properly due to uncooperative victims.
He said that a bite call should be made at the moment of the bite or from a medical facility within an hour of the bite.
This will allow the officer to find and apprehend the dog within the four hour time period recommended by the state.
The dog must be caught and identified to be sure they are not rabid. Rabies is fatal to humans, making this step top priority.
Lasiter said that most of the time, the dog belongs to somebody. Once the dog is caught and identified they can check to see if it has had its yearly rabies vaccination.
The owner must provide the vaccination record showing the animal has had its vaccination within the past year.
If vaccination records cannot be provided, the dog is not automatically “put down,” according to Lasiter. The dog is simply quarantined for 10 days to see if it shows any signs of rabies.
The animal can then be given back to its owners. Owners must pay a $160 fine for not vaccinating the dog against rabies.
Another fine of $160 can also be given if the dog is “at large” or roaming free. If the bite is considered to be a “vicious” attack - unprovoked and unwarranted - the owner can also face a fine of $250.
Lasiter said it is the responsibility of the victim to report the incident and cooperate with officers in a timely manner and it is the responsibility of the owners not only to contain and vaccinate their pets but to cooperate with officers should their pet bite a person.
Another misconception Lasiter addressed was the notion that the animal control officers “drive around looking for strays to pick up.”
“I’m not a dog catcher. We respond to calls,” said Lasiter. He said he actually tries to take note of where dogs live so the officer can take them back home if they catch them loose.
Lasiter warned citizens not to house a stray if they do not intend to keep it as a pet. Due to the possibility of some people trying to simply get rid of pets they don’t want, animal control will not pick up an animal being harbored.
If a stray is found, a call should immediately be made to the Durant Animal Control to pick the animal up. The location and time the animal was seen should be noted.
Lasiter said the dog is usually not a stray. Since animal control officers take note of where dogs live, the reported “stray” can be returned to its owner. “Don’t take it in; give us a chance to get it back home,” said Lasiter.
Animals that are picked up by Durant Animal Control are taken to the Durant Animal Shelter. The shelter is located at 1619 Blanchard Rd.
The entrance to the shelter is located on South 9th Avenue across form the blue Hill Top Pawn bus. Dogs are usually kept outside between the hours of 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the week and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.
The public is welcome to come to the shelter during these times. For officer assistance call 924-3737 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Lasiter also touched on changes that have been made to the shelter. He said that when he first began working for animal control, 40 to 50 dogs were being euthanized each month.
He said the only animals to be euthanized in the past two years are extremely vicious or dying. This is largely due to local animal rescue groups that take dogs from the shelter and find homes for them as well as get medical care for injured animals which the shelter cannot afford.
It is also due to the fact that animal control does not look for dogs to pick up anymore. Lasiter said this is all part of an overhaul that has taken place since he began with the animal control.
Other aspects of the overhaul include professional attire and more education for animal control officers.
Lasiter said one thing the Durant Animal Control is still in need of is support. He said support from the community and more local rescues would greatly help.
He said the shelter does receive support from local companies such as the Durant Wal-Mart and Indian Nation Wholesale who both donate dog food when a bag is damaged and cannot be sold.