Next week is National Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week and Sumter County commissioners marked the occasion Tuesday night with a heated debate about a neighbor dispute over a family dog.
Mama Dog, a pregnant black lab owned by the Clark family of Bushnell, apparently escaped the property a week ago by crawling under a fence. A neighbor called county animal control to pick up the dog, then later claimed he owned the dog and began an adoption procedure.
When Clark family members contacted animal services to claim their missing dog, they were told that another person had claimed Mama Dog.
“We just want our dog back,” said Brandy Clark. “We’re worried about her going into labor and she has a hard time.”
Angie Fox, who operates Lost and Found Pets of Sumter County, said the county should return the dog to the Clarks as soon as possible.
“This is a travesty,” said her husband, Commissioner Oren Miller. “We’ve been trying to get this dog back to the family for six or seven days.”
After debate among commissioners, the problem was resolved with two family members giving sworn affidavits of ownership allowing Mama Dog to be released to them as early as Wednesday.
Miller said it would be foolish to make the family go through an adoption process for their own dog.
He accused the neighbor of just wanting to sell the puppies to cover his bail or fines after his arrest on multiple charges last week.
“Why does Sumter County work so hard to take dogs away from their owners?” Miller said.
“That’s an outrageous statement,” Commissioner Doug Gilpin shot back.
County Chairman Garry Breeden said it’s important to follow county procedures.
“This won’t be the last case we have of disputed ownership,” he said. “To ignore that policy, you make it a precedent.”
Commissioner Gary Search said he agreed that following policy is important, but there are times to use common sense.
“As I’ve listened to it here, it’s clear who the owner is,” he said.
County Administrator Bradley Arnold suggested that the problem could be solved if family members provided sworn affidavits after the meeting that they owned Mama Dog.
Minutes after the Mama Dog debate, Breeden read a proclamation declaring April 11-17 National Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week.