All the pieces appear to be there, but no one has put the puzzle together. That has to change.
The Grand Traverse County board recently did what a lot of citizens likely wanted to do — quiz local officials on how it was that even after a visit from an animal control officer two horses were found so malnourished they had to be euthanized; three more were seized to be nursed back to health.
On Oct. 4 an Animal Control officer went to Danelle Round's Fife Lake Township property on M-113 after a complaint that her horses appeared to be starving. On Jan. 7, a Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Department deputy was called to the property and found two horses down on the ground. The animals had to be euthanized; Round later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of abandoning or being cruel to animals.
As County Commissioner Addison Wheelock Jr put it, "... (W)e dropped the ball."
Yes; and in this case, "we" covers a lot of territory.
In Grand Traverse County, animal control falls under the health department and not, as in most places, the sheriff's department. To further confuse the issue, however, animal abuse and cruelty complaints are supposed to be handled by law enforcement under an agreement with the sheriff.
So it was that when an animal control officer first looked into the issue, things were already off track.
To further confound the public, the county website directs people to contact Animal Control to report abuse.
Left hand, meet the right hand.
While this all sounds like a mess, it doesn't need to be.
Sheriff Tom Bensley said he's not interested in taking over Animal Control, but commissioner Larry Fleis suggested deputies be cross-trained as animal control officers. County staff said that could create jurisdictional problems, but isn't that what we already have? And isn't it better to give the people who eventually handle these issues some additional training?
The Health Department could keep doing what it does. The department's two officers (there used to be three, plus a manager and a full-time jail trusty to help at the county shelter) last year spent about 25 percent of their time caring for animals at the shelter; they seized 328 dogs, returned 110, issued more than 170 citations and investigated about 180 animal bites.
Lastly, clarify the county website; to report a dog running loose, call animal control; to report abuse, call the sheriff's department.
All this should take is a willingness to tear down bureaucratic hurdles and agree to agree.
However it's done, the taxpayers want it fixed.