After a few months of discussion, Jefferson County commissioners have officially approved an agreement with Snake River Animal Shelter in an effort to address the county’s problems with dogs.

“I think what’s important is the public know that there’s a tool that’s available … to be exercised at the discretion of the sheriff,” county attorney Weston Davis said.

According to the contract, the shelter will only accept dogs from Jefferson County, and county citizens cannot take animals to the shelter unless they are authorized by the sheriff’s office to do so.

The county will pay the shelter a $35 intake fee for each canine or litter of puppies taken to the shelter by a sheriff’s deputy or authorized agent of the county. The county will also pay the shelter $10 per day for up to three days. Jefferson County will not pay the shelter more than $3,000 for the duration of the contract, which began Nov. 18 and will end Sept. 30, 2020. If a dog is claimed by the owner, the owner will then be responsible for the fees, plus an additional $20 microchipping fee.

Commissioners may have approved the contract itself, but a number of questions remain on how the contract will be executed. Sheriff Steve Anderson has said his deputies cannot transport animals unless they are vicious. He said he has concerns about unfunded mandates, and said he can provide a vehicle, but no cage and no one to drive the dogs to the shelter.

In a previous meeting, commissioners said Audrey Moon, the commissioners’ administrative assistant, would transport animals to the shelter. A few county employees expressed their concerns about that, including human resources director Rebecca Squires.

“You are changing from just having clerical and office-type duties, to being on the road, driving, after-hours call-out, cell phone — I mean, all these other things that will come into play as a result,” Squires said.

She said changing Moon’s duties would have an impact on workers compensation codes and said there would be other things to consider as well.

“I think that needs to be discussed rather than just saying, ‘Well, Audrey’s going to do it,’” Squires said.

Lana Atkinson, a Jefferson County resident and 911 dispatcher, said she wanted to know what she should do when she receives 911 calls about dogs. She said she receives “many, many, many” dog-related calls. Davis said the sheriff would direct her on what to do, and said the sheriff could also make the determination on whether the dog is vicious or not. Commissioner Shayne Young asked her how often she received those kinds of calls.

“Daily,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson asked if there were plans for Jefferson County to get a facility for stray and lost animals in the future. Commissioner Scott Hancock said it was in discussion, but said nothing had been finalized.

“Whereas Jefferson County is such a large county, there’s been a need for quite some time, I think” Atkinson said.

She said she understood the county did have budget constraints, however.

Atkinson asked what she should do as a resident after the contract was approved. Hancock said at that point, she could take a photo, contact Moon via the county courthouse or contact the sheriff’s office. He said the county would then post the dog to the Facebook page. He said if no one responded to the post, Moon or another authorized person would pick the dog up and transport it to the shelter.

Later in the discussion, Squires said she would recommend the county not post animals to the county Facebook page, and instead utilize a page that already posts lost pets.

“There are many, many Facebook pages in the community that are lost-pet type pages,” Squires said. “I would strongly recommend that Jefferson County participate in one of those pages, rather than start up another page, or clutter our official Facebook page with lost pet notices.”

Hancock said his idea had been to have a box on the page people could look for the pets. Squires said it did not work that way. Davis said it would be good to work details out at a later date, and indicated it would be good to put that discussion on as a separate agenda item in the future.