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Animal Control is too aggressive?
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I confess to some amusement about the whole controversy involving the saga of Diana Thibodaux, who recently lost her pet Lab to a Chatham County Animal Control tranquilizer gun.

I’m certainly not amused at the loss of her beloved Maggie. That is a sad and most unfortunate story.

But I am tickled by two things: First off, by how neatly the story fits the standard mold of the Vox Populi controversy du jour: Uncaring government bureaucracy meets Ardsley Park resident with a flair for the media spotlight.

Mostly I’m amused, in an ironic sort of way, at how Ms. Thibodaux got what I’ve desperately wanted for years: A trigger-happy Animal Control armed to the teeth with tranquilizer guns.

I live in Parkside, on the other side of Waters from Thibodaux. I’ve lived in Ardsley Park before -- twice, actually -- and overall I like it much better over here. But ever since moving to Parkside six years ago, we’ve had a dog problem. Lots of problems, actually, with lots of dogs:

Packs of wild and possibly rabid dogs attacking our cats. Sick, mangy mutts spreading filth all over the neighborhood. Nocturnal nuisances who sleep all day and bark all night. Wandering free agents who leave thick steaming turds on every square inch of available yard space.

Realtors are always sending us unsolicited letters bragging about how much they sold a neighbor’s house for. But for some reason none sees fit to mention these charming Parkside features.

Through it all, I’ve received nothing but attitude from Animal Control, which in my experience not only seeks to minimize any control of animals, but to minimize any contact with them whatsoever.

This in itself is not a surprise. Growing up in Savannah, I heard the stories about how ineffective and unresponsive the local Animal Control was from a young age. What is a surprise is that now they find themselves under the gun for being too aggressive. That’s rich.

A couple of months ago, a sick Chow with half its skin falling off was wandering our neighborhood, as it had been for several weeks. (I know what you’re thinking: Jim, you should have rescued that poor dog and taken it to the vet. Well, I’m no St. Francis of Assisi, and my veterinary budget is already spoken for by three feline claimants who don’t care much for Chows.)

The last straw was when the Chow came up to a neighbor’s fence one night while they were out of town and made their dog go nuts. Knowing from experience never to call Animal Control directly if I need a response, I instead called Savannah Police (not 911, mind you, but the desk at 232-4141).

The cop who came to my block was professional and courteous. While he admitted there was nothing he himself could do -- “I only deal with the two-legged kind,” was his quip -- he offered to call Animal Control before he left.

What arrived 45 minutes later was the most surly, rude, arrogant public “servant” I’ve ever encountered.

“You mean SPD got me all the way over here for a dog at large?” yelled the Animal Control employee at me from her truck. “Wait ‘til I tell Precinct 3 about this -- they’ll tear his ass a new one.”

There you have it, your tax dollars at work: an Animal Control employee threatening a Savannah police officer in front of a resident who badly needed service.

Her behavior was so over-the-top, so absurd, that I wasn’t even mad. I came in the house laughing. Needless to say, the Chow remained in our neighborhood that night and for weeks afterward.

I can hear you now, saying: Jim, you wouldn’t be writing this if Animal Control had killed your pet like it killed Maggie. You just don’t know how it is until it happens to you.

Well, it’s true that Animal Control has never shot one of my family pets. You got me there.

And I suppose when we lost our beloved cat Maya to a wild Parkside dogpack a couple of Christmases ago, we might have put a bunch of homemade signs up in our yard, like Diana Thibodaux did. Except ours would say the opposite, that Animal Control didn’t do enough.

But that’s not our way, so we didn’t do it. Instead we grieved privately, and stubbornly held out hope that someone in a position of power would one day force Animal Control to do its job.

That day is now. While it’s busy tackling admittedly much larger and more vital issues, the new Chatham County Commission must also find the time to direct Chief Flynn to bring Animal Control up to the same high standards as his police department.


Jim is editor in chief of Connect Savannah.