Animal Services Primer
Public Information Officer
Galveston County Health District
June 27, 2011
Recently there have been several letters published regarding the provision of animal control services within Galveston County. The Health District would like to take this opportunity to explain how these services are actually provided in local jurisdictions so citizens will know where to direct inquiries and concerns.
Services overseen by the Health District are provided through an interlocal agreement approved by Galveston County Commissioners; and officials in the cities of Bayou Vista, Clear Lake Shores, Dickinson, Hitchcock, Kemah, La Marque, Santa Fe, Texas City and Tiki Island.
The two primary services are field services and sheltering. Field services are performed by Animal Control Officers (ACO) who respond to calls from the public concerning stray and nuisance animals, and bite incidents. Many times these officers will assist law enforcement investigating cases of animal cruelty. Sheltering involves housing and providing care to the cats and dogs that ACOs and citizens bring to the shelter.
Galveston County Health District is responsible for providing both of these services for the cities of Hitchcock, Bayou Vista, Dickinson, Santa Fe, Kemah, Clear Lake Shores, La Marque, Tiki Island and the unincorporated areas of Galveston County.
While Texas City is a part of the interlocal agreement, it is important to note that it manages and oversees its own field services with city employees that are dispatched out of the Joe Vickery Animal Shelter in Texas City. As part of the interlocal agreement, animals that are brought in by Texas City animal control officers are also housed at the county’s shelter.
The cities of Friendswood and League City provide their own control and sheltering services. The city of Galveston provides their own control services, and contracts with the Galveston Island Humane Society for shelter services. In these cities ACOs report directly to the city and not the Galveston County Health District.
Animal Services is not, and never has been an easy job. When people call for services they often want an immediate response. Unfortunately animals do not always cooperate to make quick solutions to problems possible. When animal control officers reach a location, often the problem animal is nowhere to be found. Sometimes it will take multiple trips before stray animals are brought in to the shelter.
The Health District employs five ACOs that respond to the entire area served by the Health District, including Bolivar peninsula. Due to this, response time may vary greatly depending on the type of service request. For example; a bite case in one part of the county will be a priority and may take several hours to complete. During that time non-emergency calls, such as a loose animal not posing any danger may not get an instant response. Officers are assigned to different areas of the county to ensure coverage of all areas, but may be called to other areas if high priority calls come in. We strive to answer all calls for service in a timely manner.
Animal Control Officers are available 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. After these hours, an ACO is available on-call for emergencies if requested by local law enforcement. An emergency is defined as an injured animal, an animal that has bitten a human, or an animal that is an immediate threat to the public. During after hours, citizens should call local law enforcement for assistance, who may then contact animal control if the situation is deemed an emergency.
The Galveston County Health District processes more than 8,000 animals per year at the county’s shelter. We find happy homes for many animals through our adoption program, and work closely with various breed specific groups to find loving homes for many more animals. Our volunteer program finds us working with many dedicated animal lovers in the local community that donate their time and resources to make sure animals are well taken care of that find themselves in the shelter.
A new Galveston County Animal Resource Center approved by voters in 2008 is currently under construction in Texas City and is expected to be completed this summer. We are currently working with local leaders, our own animal advisory council and volunteers to address resources that will be needed in order to fully utilize the new resource center. This new facility will be state-of-the-art and is very welcomed, but a new building alone does not address everything.
Pet owners are still the most important piece of the puzzle. Everyone is asked to do their part by having their pets spayed and neutered, and by following all animal regulations. Residents should also know if they feed, care or allow an animal to remain on property for more than three days, under current policy/regulation, they can be deemed the owner of the animal and be held responsible for any damage that animal may cause. For that reason feeding stray animals is discouraged. Owners should also register their pets with the appropriate agency for their jurisdiction and not allow animals to roam off property, to bark excessively, or otherwise become a nuisance to neighbors.
Set an example by being a responsible pet owner.
(News Media: For more information contact Kurt Koopmann, GCHD Public Information Officer, (409) 938-2211)