New Beaufort County animal control officers dealing with animals -- and people

dburley@islandpacket.comSeptember 13, 2013 

When staff at Beaufort County Animal Control need help with an aggressive dog, they call Joe Yadron.

He's the animal whisperer. He considers snakes "relaxing." For the past two years, he has worked in the kennels at the county animal shelter, sometimes dealing with 70 barking dogs at a time.

But in July, an opportunity arose for Yadron, 31, to get out into the field. He became one of animal control's three new code enforcement officers. The trio responds to complaints about nuisance animals, trapping roaming ones that pose a public safety risk.

Already masters of dogs and cats, the code enforcement officers' new job has brought them closer to a different animal: people.

"It's much more of a people-skills position," Yadron said. "We're out there every day, educating."

The code enforcement officers replaced the six sheriff's deputies who previously responded to calls. The arrangement is paying dividends, animal-control personnel say.

"This allows us to work directly with the public," said Tallulah Trice, director of the county animal shelter. "It's much easier. Now we can get out and solve problems before they come to us."

THE SWITCH

Last March, Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner announced the six deputies handling animal-control duties would be reassigned to elementary schools as resource officers.

"Deputies don't need to be trapping feral cats," Tanner said. "We needed to use deputies for what they're intended for."

That opened up three slots for code enforcement officers, who don't have the same investigative powers as deputies. They can't investigate cases of abuse, for example, but they can still respond to a majority of requests -- trapping feral cats, for instance.

Trice promoted three of her animal technicians, Yadron among them, to the open positions.

The switch cost less than $90,000, according to Bryan Hill, county deputy administrator.

The Sheriff's Office transferred six Econoline vans and several animal-carrying cages to the shelter.

By July, the three officers were responding to calls.

PREVENTION SAID KEY

Before the switch, all calls to animal control were routed through non-emergency dispatch. That meant Trice and animal control weren't alerted when a deputy responded to a call.

Sometimes, Trice said, deputies would bring back more animals than the shelter could handle.

But now, all calls during business hours go straight to animal control. This allows for Trice and the code enforcement officers to practice their favorite buzzword: prevention.

"It's so important to talk to people before they come to the shelter," Trice said. "Once they're here with the dog, it's too late. They're going to give up the animal."

Animal control received more than 2,500 calls in August, and responded to 152. Trice said while the shelter still houses the same number of animals, the officers can persuade callers to hold off, especially for particular animals.

Last week, for example, Trice received a call about four black Labrador retrievers on Hilton Head Island whose owner died. Instead of bringing the dogs to animal control, Trice called Lowcountry Labradors, sent them there and increased the dogs' chance for adoption, she said.

"There's lots of sick animals here," she said. "We kept them away from a sick environment."

In the field, Yadron sees dogs chained by owners. Rather than take the dogs to the shelter, Yadron said he talks to their owners and gives them a free "runner," a trolley system that wears less on the dogs.

"People have been responding really well," he said.

Follow reporter Dan Burley at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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