Sheriff, Stanly Commission say plan in works to address large animals on the loose

Farm Pasture Cows Brown Nature Cow Animal. From Maxpixel Creative Commons license.

ALBEMARLE — During public comment in the Aug. 12, 2019 meeting of the Stanly County Commission, Alicia Harrison, a local woman involved in animal rescue, got up to address the commission on what she described as an ongoing problem of how to deal with large animals when they get loose.

“Okay, you wake up this morning and there is a 2,000 pound bull standing in your front yard. What do you do? Well, if you call the sheriff’s department, they say, ‘We don’t do large animals.’ If you call animal control, they say, ‘We don’t do large animals,’” Harrison said, describing a situation that has caused her frustration. “Hope you know cowboys.”

She concluded by saying she wanted commissioners to start a conversation about the chain of command on this issue, so the public would have a clear answer on who to call when a large animal breaks free.

Commissioner Tommy Jordan, who has worked on the issue extensively, responded, “You are correct about the issue. And we are working on it.”

Jordan said he wanted to make clear that there is a chain of command on how to deal with large animals already. “If it is a large animal, it is unequivocally the Stanly County Sheriff’s Department. It’s always been the case. It’s never been anything different.”

He said animal control only has legal jurisdiction over dogs and cats, so anything larger, like cows, horses, donkeys or other farm animals, do not fall under their authority.

Harrison said that when she or other animal rescue people in the county call the sheriff’s office though, they have not been able to provide the service because of lack of training and equipment. When a pony got loose at the Ingles, her team caught him and re-homed him, naming him Stanly. She has also dealt with an “extremely aggressive donkey” four times after it escaped from someone, who she believes, is a negligent owner.

Many volunteers recently met and agreed that if the city would allow them to sign a waiver, they would take the job on for themselves and would not pursue legal action if they were injured corralling one of these large animals.

Jordan said he understood the idea of a group of volunteers wanting to help and agreeing not to sue, but “The problem is, the waivers wouldn’t be worth the paper they were written on.”

Stanly County isn’t alone in having to deal with occasional farm animals who need to be recovered. On Aug. 13, neighboring Union County dealt with runaway rodeo bulls who got loose in a neighborhood. Cowboys then had to be called in from Statesville, many miles to the north.

According to coverage of the incident by WBTV, “The cowboys told the neighbors that this wasn’t the first time they have been called in for something like this.”

Jordan said the sheriff’s office is “working on a solution. They are working on putting infrastructure in place, but they don’t have all the answers yet.”

Animal control, the county manager, the sheriff’s office and the county commission are all working together, according to Jordan, and they are close to having a plan they can discuss.

Sheriff Crisco confirmed this to SCJ, “We’re in talks with the commissioners and the county manager to try to see what’s the best course of action to take. We’re exploring all options.”

Commissioner Jordan did say that the public should be patient with their initial proposal when it is made public because, although he believes it will solve 75% of the problems, it “will not be perfect” and will need adjustments as they learn more.