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The Free Press of Buda, Texas

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Kyle assesses Animal Control response

After an officer was involved in the shooting of a dog last month in Kyle, speculation rose on whether the city's Animal Control Department was up to snuff.

According to statistics provided by Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett, staffing requirements for Kyle's Animal Control Department was adequate to the number of calls they get on a daily basis.

The required staffing for the animal control department, Barnett said, was is two full-time officers covering shifts seven days a week. The department recently extended hours on Sundays.

Barnett said in the event all animal control officers are unavailable when a call comes in, Kyle Police officers are called to handle the situation.

Kyle Police officers have gone through state mandated training in dealing with aggressive dog situations, Barnett said.

Barnett said long-time Animal Control officer Brianna Brecher occasionally hosts in-house training classes for officers in order to better handle aggressive dog situations.

"We give officers a multitude of different training material on dealing with aggressive dog situations if the animal control officers are unavailable during an incident," Barnett said.

But a letter from the attorney of 2015 Water leaf Falls dog attack victim Amy Jensen believes there are ongoing issues of loose dogs in the neighborhood, as well as enforcement issues.

Dan Gattis with the Gattis Law Firm which represents Jensen, said in the letter that the problem of dogs running loose in the Waterleaf Falls neighborhood continues.

Allegations in the letter included social media posts regarding loose dog concerns.

Issues also stemmed from improperly kept fences, as well as complaints about Kyle Animal Control being understaffed and its inability to manage calls.

Barnett responded by saying citations can be issued after a first offense by Animal Control officers if there are repetitive loose dog problems.

Animal Control officers capture and transport loose dogs to the San Marcos Animal Shelter, where seized animals in Kyle are taken, as an alternative to a citation.

Officers can opt to issue a citation on the first violation if they determine the owner is resisting their efforts to remedy the problem.

"It's a balance between trying not to be an overly aggressive governmental agency, repressing people's rights, while also holding people accountable," Barnett said.

But citizens' comments in the letter from March 2016 claim if animal control is unable to respond to a call, Kyle Police officers would not respond regarding a loose dog unless it was aggressive.

Barnett said KPD is stretched thin right now, and they don't have enough officers to spare for a random, loose, non-aggressive dog call.

"Obviously, any additional increase in staffing would allow more coverage. However, that's a budgetary decision that would be made by mayor and council," Barnett said As an alternative, Barnett said one idea could involve enlisting volunteers to help with non-aggressive, loose dog calls.

"It has not been carried to city council yet, but it's something that the police department is internally developing for presentation to see if we can have buy-in and support from city management and city council," Barnett said.

But Barnett said there is a "lot of misinformation out there" about the extent of "involvement of certain animal control officers."

He said officers have done more for a "particular situation than reported."

"I think our Animal Control officers responded to the Waterleaf Falls situation before, during and after the incident in a way that the community expects of any animal control department," Barnett said.

Barnett also supported the actions of the Kyle Police officer in the dog shooting in April.

"That officer responded in a way that he felt he had to in order to protect himself and others," Barnett said.

"It's a balance between trying not to be an overly aggressive governmental agency, repressing people's rights, while also holding people accountable."

Jeff Barnett, Kyle Police Chief

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Original Publication Date: May 11, 2016

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