POSTED: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - 5:36pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - 5:46pm
Tyler TX — If you live in rural Smith County and you decide to feed a stray dog, you may just end up owning it.
So, as terrible as it sounds, you better think twice about being kind.
Many people aren't aware that in parts of Smith County, if you feed a stray dog for more than three days, you are accountable for that dog.
If you live in Tyler, you're also responsible for the leash law.
Tyler Animal Control picks up more than 5,000 animals a year and animal professionals tell KETK that a large portion of those are dogs.
Unfortunately, over population of strays in Tyler isn't the only problem.
Bob Gardner from Tyler Animal Control said, "The biggest issue for Smith County is no shelter, for the entire Smith County there is no shelter for us to bring dogs, so even us we have to bring them to Cherokee County."
However, many people don't know that caring for a stray dog out of the kindness of your heart, might end up costing you, literally.
Deborah Dobbs, president of SPCA of East Texas, said, "What happens is these people, good Samaritans, start taking care of these animals and then they realize that the animal needs veterinary care or they've taken on too much and they call Smith County Animal Control and animal control says well you've been taking care of it for three days and our policy is that makes it your dog."
She says she gets calls like this all the time. She also says, Smith County Animal Control is only responsible for picking up strays around the county, not from people's homes once they have been cared for.
If you live within the city limits of Tyler, you can call Tyler Animal Control to pick up a stray dog or an unwanted dog at anytime.
Keep in mind, if you don't, not only will the dog be your responsibility but Gardner tells us it will also your liability.
Gardner says, "If they have been housing the animal, feeding the animal, watering the animal for any length of time, they can be cited if they don't control the animal."
Although, there is no local shelter to house these dogs, so Dobbs suggests people that are able, to foster stray dogs until SPCA of East Texas can find them a proper home.
Now if you are a cat lover, it is a whole different story. Dobbs tells KETK that Tyler Animal Control will pick up stray cats, but Smith County Animal Control doesn't deal with cats at all. Dobbs says cats are much different then dogs and can in most cases take care of themselves, including finding their own food. She said that there are many humane programs that neuter cats and then release back into society to live on their own without reproducing. Therefore, feeding stray cats might keep them around your property, but it looks like you won't have to worry about ownership.