Benton, Bryant and Haskell each have one, but other cities don’t have animal shelters, and neither do the unincorporated areas of the county. A group of state, city and county officials held a meeting on Thursday, July 6, 2023, at the Benton Mayor’s office to discuss possible paths to creating one animal control facility for the entire county.
Saline County government has the capability to deal with vicious animals, but has no facility for dumped, feral or lost animals. The Humane Society of Saline County has been a great help, but all shelters in the county – including private ones – stay full. Local shelters had been transporting animals to other cities and states to be adopted, but after the pandemic, transportation costs rose enough that travel for animals is not currently in the budget.
The meeting on Thursday included Benton Mayor Tom Farmer, Alexander Mayor Crystal Hermann, and Bryant Mayor Allen Scott. Animal Control Director Tricia Power at Bryant started the ball rolling to test the viability of combining the efforts of municipalities and county government, much in the same manner of the recent merging of local 911 communications. Power looked into the possible cost of a countywide animal shelter and came up with a figure around $50 million. There is some work to do to come anywhere near that figure.
State Representative RJ Hawk of Bryant was at the meeting. He came with the idea of working with a non-profit that helped with the pet population in northwest Arkansas. Since this meeting was preliminary, there is no solid plan at this time. The goal is to keep each city’s current staff, but to add a shared shelter facility.
Speaking as Director of the Humane Society of Saline County, Ann Sanders recommended that each city and the county should pass matching ordinances regarding animals. Otherwise, there would be different holding periods, fines and levels of enforcement for animals that are licensed, altered or chipped or not.
There are also grants of up to $25,000 available for individual cities with a population under 20,000, according to Hawk. The next step is to organize an advisory committee to draft a plan for presentation to those who might be able to help find and/or fund a property. The next meeting is set for Tuesday, August 8th, 2023.
Others present at the meeting were Saline County Attorney Will Gruber, Saline County Communications Director Trevor Villines, Mayor Farmer’s Executive Assistant Toby Hirscheider, Bryant’s Communications Director Jordan Reynolds, and Shelli Poole of MySaline participated and reported.