RUTLAND HERALD 08/03/20
By Keith Whitcomb Jr.
BRANDON — The Select Board voted unanimously last week to adopt a new animal control ordinance that outlines the powers of the animal control officer.
Part of the motion to pass the ordinance was to include recommendations that Select Board Chairman Seth Hopkins and Selectman Tim Guiles developed after a public hearing earlier in July.
Among their recommendations were that the animal control officer, a post currently held by Margaret Kahrs, be supplied with necessary documents and equipment, that she pursue animal control officer and humane officer training, to be paid for by the town, as soon as possible, that the animal control officer work with the town police department and use its record keeping system, and that the animal control officer meet with the town manager and police chief and become oriented to the towns’ expectations with regards to gaining compliance and being responsive.
Among the recommendations were that the board find no further action needs to be taken for the animal control officer to act as a humane officer in accordance with state law.
“This is an issue the community cares about and we used all the community input we’ve received as we try to come up with an animal control ordinance in a way that respects various points of view,” said Hopkins.
Michael Shank, who is head of the Planning Commission but was not speaking in that capacity, wanted the board to clarify that, under state law, the animal control officer has the power to place liens on animals they order seized.
The ordinance discussion came up in large part due to an incident in late January where authorities seized about 220 animals — dogs, pigs, cats, and goats among them — from a property on Kimball Road. A Brandon resident was charged in Rutland criminal court in connection with the incident, the charges stemming from the condition of a horse and a dead cat.
Board members appeared reluctant to state themselves what the animal control officer, acting as human officer, could do in a given situation. Hopkins said the board can not grant its animal control officer powers the Legislature does not authorize and it’s not clear to the board what would be exempt under state agriculture laws. He and Guiles said the statute refers to state law, but not for the board to interpret state laws.
Shank said his concern was that the town has not given the animal control enough authority to carry out their duties, but said if Kahrs felt like she had what she needed he would defer to her judgement.
Kahrs said she has some technical questions about how the ordinance works, but otherwise felt it’s clear and lets her work more closely with police.
“I would like an animal control officer who is aware and who is responsive, but who is not intrusive,” said Hopkins. “Those are my three adjectives that fit the community’s desire for an animal control officer as I understand them.”
Guiles and other board members echoed those sentiments, adding that this ordnance will allow Kahrs to do the job as the town envisions.
“We’re looking for compliance rather than a whole bunch of tickets being written,” Guiles said.