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OPINION | RANDAL BERRY: Buck passed

LR animal control needs to step up by RANDAL BERRY SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | April 28, 2022 at 2:50 a.m.

The old axiom "passing the buck" is alive and well and living in the confines of Little Rock City Hall.

Bear with me. About two months ago, some--not all--residents of the Meadowcliff subdivision in southwest Little Rock received a letter from the United States Postal Service location on Baseline Road informing residents that if their mailbox is attached to their house, it will have to be moved to the curb due to a dog attack on a mail carrier in the subdivision.

Yes, loose and stray dogs are a problem in this neighborhood and likely other neighborhoods in Little Rock. In the last few years, they have become more abundant. Yes, the problem of these loose and strays is 100 percent the responsibly of their owners.

Most of the dogs I have seen when driving through the neighborhood are wearing a collar, so you know they are someone's escaped pets. Of course, the dog owner's responsibility is, without question, to properly house and secure their pets. Some of these loose dogs may be escaped pets, fence jumpers, etc. Some of these dogs are also abandoned by their owners due to moving or the cost of feeding and providing health care for their animals.

Many people in this subdivision are elderly and retired people, some on a fixed income, some relying entirely on their Social Security monthly checks to get by, and some don't even have a vehicle to run errands, so they rely on family members to take them to their doctor's appointments, the grocery store, etc. Driving around the neighborhood, I would guesstimate 80 percent or more have mailboxes attached to their dwellings, under a porch roof and right next to their front door for ease of accessibility.

The U.S. Postal Service gave them a request to move their mailbox curbside by April 1 so mail carriers can drive up to the box and place the letters inside. Some of these residents with the hardships I mentioned can't afford to hire someone to remove their mailbox from their house and install it curbside. The Postal Service letter also said that after April 1, "all mail and subsequent mail received at this post office will be returned to the sender as undeliverable due to dog interference." If the homeowners' mailboxes aren't moved curbside!

On March 28, I sent a letter to Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and copied City Manager Bruce Moore regarding this. I asked why the city's Animal Services Division isn't addressing this. Their "mission statement" on their webpage reads: "The Animal Services Division is responsible for protection of our citizens by enforcing all City ordinances related to Animal Safety and Welfare. Pet owners who do not comply with the laws are issued citations for their appearance in Municipal Court. In addition, Animal Services Staff has responsibility for stray animals in Little Rock. Stray animals are collected and housed at the Animal Village where care is provided for them, or they are held for owner pickup, adoption, or rescue. Adoption programs attempt to place these animals in loving homes with responsible owners. Animal Service Officers respond to complaints about stray, injured, neglected, and abused animals."

Two days later I received a reply from Terahn Cooney, Mayor's Office Constituent Relations, saying that they have been in contact with the Postal Service regarding this, and that the declaration had been issued by the federal government, so they had no authority in the decision.

I'm aware federal law supersedes local municipalities. However, this seems to me to clearly a case of Animal Services not performing the job that we the citizen taxpayers pay them for. Hence my claim of "passing the buck" regarding the reply I received.

For the last several years, I constantly see posts on Nextdoor.com for Meadowcliff/Brookwood subdivision of dogs running loose in the neighborhood. I assume it's happening throughout the city.

Here's an idea! How about hiring more animal control officers to round these dogs up, and fine the owners if the owners can be identified? Perhaps our mayor or city manager should increase the budget for Animal Control to hire more employees, even part-time, and investigate overhauling that entire department so we, the citizens, shouldn't have to endure costly hardships and have interference from the federal government on how to do the job they are tasked with.

Just a thought.


Randal Berry of Little Rock is a former snake wrangler and a musician.


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