Residents call on City to fix issue of loose animals

Staff photo by Maayan Schechter Williston resident Muffy Seaton asked Aiken County Council on Tuesday during their public meeting, to take the lead and find ways to solve problems with roaming stray dogs. Seaton’s three miniature horses died in July after being attacked by dogs on her property.

Animal lovers alike, one from as far as Texas, implored Aiken County Council to lead the effort in combating roaming dogs on Tuesday.

During Council’s public meeting, Williston resident Muffy Seaton led the call for Council to fix what she called a “huge problem” in the County. Three of Seaton’s miniature horses were killed by dogs in July on her 100-acre farm on Whittle Pond Road. A number of residents, including a woman who flew in from Texas just for the meeting, and an equine veterinarian, stood and posed the same dilemma.

Seaton asked Council to consider a number of items, including putting out signs around the County, similar to “no littering” signs, urging residents to leash their dogs while they are out, or to make sure they don’t leave their own property.

“It’s clear we have a problem,” one resident said. “We don’t want Animal Control to get a bad reputation because they are doing the best they can do with what they have. ... It’s clear that education and the laws are there. We do need to get the education out to them (residents) in the remote areas. ... You are the people who have the purse strings. Really consider this issue.”

Councilman Andrew Siders mentioned to the standing room only crowd that he has received several letters on this issue, some from as far away as Australia.

“It’s not just an economic point, it’s a human issue,” Siders said. “... This problem has been around for a long time. It’s high time we really take a hard look at it. I want to thank you, Muffy, for bringing this to light, and thank you (other residents) for coming here to support this. We love you all, and we thank you for being in Aiken County, and we are going to work as hard as we can to help.”

Assistant County Administrator Andrew Merriman, who oversees Aiken County Animal Control, told County residents staff currently is looking over policies and procedures to curb this problem, which includes meeting with the Animal Control Advisory Committee to map a path forward.

Bobby Arthurs, chief enforcement officer at the Aiken County Animal Shelter, said he heard several great ideas from individuals at the meeting.

“There’s a huge problem that needs to be addressed with animals running at-large,” Arthurs said. “You had anywhere from the young lady saying people are coming home at 5 o’clock releasing animals, and some folks saying they haven’t gotten a response when they called Animal Control. Now, I’m disappointed to hear that, because we do take pride in responding to all our calls and we will continue to work hard. I think County Council supports it, and they see a need for some help. We may see that increase of enforcement or animal control officers in the future.”

Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.