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Animal Task Force members advocate for animal control officer

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 11:16 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 11:17 a.m. CDT

Several citizens attended the council meeting Tuesday night to advocate the hiring of an animal control officer.

Three members of the Animal Task Force, the group tasked with creating and recommending a comprehensive ordinance on animal safety in Newton, voiced their concerns about having an ordinance but not having an officer solely dedicated to enforcing the ordinance.

Dixie Cassidy, a member of the task force, told the council a story about how she was stalked by a dog while going on a walk through her neighborhood. She said she wants to feel safe in the community and that current Newton police officers shouldn’t be solely responsible for enforcing an animal ordinance.

“They are busy with more serious crimes than catching a dog,” Cassidy said. “We need somebody that’s full time and that’s all they do.”

Emily Thomason, another member of the task force, said the council failed to act after the first incident involving a severe dog bite and said the council only acted after a second incident.

“Both of these incidents could have been prevented,” Thomason said. “Why are we waiting for the worst to happen when we can be proactive?”

All three members of the task force who spoke reiterated any ordinance regarding animals in Newton would be hollow without proper enforcement.

“If no one is being held accountable, it doesn’t matter what ordinances we put in place,” Thomason said.

After discussion, the council removed the one-time expenditure for the implementation of Buxton Company’s report from the list and planned to revisit the issue after more information has been obtained about the company. The council also decided to table the resolution to contract with Buxton for the report and to spend funds on marketing and travel expenses.

“I am just skeptical about $50,000 going to Buxton and the value we’re getting,” Councilor Dennis Julius said.

Buxton Company specializes in reports for cities that gives them information about how to bring certain retailers and restaurants into communities.

Julius said the money might be better used on hiring an animal control officer, but Councilor Evelyn George pointed out that these funds are for one-time expenditures only.

“I don’t think we can duplicate what Buxton does,” George said

Even though many members of the council vocally supported the resolution to enter into an agreement with Buxton, the council wanted to make sure everyone was on board before moving forward. George said she was convinced after hearing how the report and implementation was a success for Indianola.

“I put more faith in people who talk about their (Buxton’s) services rather than (Buxton) talking about their services,” George said.

Councilor Jeff Price said the city should not purchase the report without agreeing to implement the plan as well. City Administrator Bob Knabel reiterated this.

Knabel noted Buxton reported the plans are not successful or not as successful in cities that do not implement them.

Price also had concerns the report and implementation should be shared with businesses already in Newton. Mayor Mike Hansen said if Buxton is retained it won’t just bring new businesses to Newton, but the data will benefit businesses already established in Newton.

“We’re paying for information to share with our local businesses,” Hansen said.

The data is valid for three to four years, but Knabel said the reliability and longevity of the data relies on how fast the community changes.

Julius said he had concerns about the goals and parameters of what Buxton will do and had reservations about opening up another partnership with a third party.

At the Sept. 16 council meeting, more information will be presented about Buxton.

Staff writer Dave Hon may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at dhon@newtondailynews.com.

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