Faulkner County may be aligning with the county humane society to address the county’s animal control problems.

At a Courts and Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday, Justice of the Peace Charles Prince made a conditional motion to enact a temporary voucher program for spaying and neutering pets. That motion will come into play should negotiations between the county and city not work out later this month.

The Humane Society of Faulkner County’s position has been that the most effective way to reduce feral animals is to offer the procedure at a free or reduced rate to Faulkner County residents. The six-month pilot program would have a $10,000 limit and will only come before the Quorum Court if negotiations do not pan out in a meeting scheduled to happen in the week of Aug. 27 between Faulkner County Judge Preston Scroggin and Conway Police Chief A.J. Gary.

Scroggin said at the committee meeting that he and Gary will meet to revisit the idea of partnering with the city to maintain a county shelter.

Though there is a voluntary tax that has been collected since 2005 for the purpose of funding a county shelter, committee members believe the amount is insufficient to sustain the department.

The fund sits at about $600,000.

Justice of the Peace Randy Higgins, co-chair with Lauralee Wilcox-McCool, told the committee Tuesday he believes it is in the county’s best financial interest to partner with the city.

Scroggin said in an interview Wednesday that officials with the county and the City of Conway have been meeting on occasion since before 2004 to discuss possible solutions for animal control, but a plan had not yet been agreed upon.

Scroggin said he is optimistic about the coming meeting.

"The last meeting in June with Chief Gary and his people at the city’s shelter went very well. They were receptive, but I haven’t seen anything yet and I don’t know what they have on their minds," Scroggin said.

Scroggin said one problem city officials foresaw in the past was confusion about having two shelters.

"From a financial standpoint, we can try these other directions, but if we can’t partner with the city, I don’t see a long term solution. The revenue stream isn’t enough to start our own shelter," he said. "I’m optimistic to see what they’ve got."

Scroggin said he sees "the city’s side of it."

"They’ve got an up and running program. They were concerned about having to euthanise more animals. I can see the city’s side of it."

Higgins said at Tuesday’s meeting he doesn’t believe a spay and neuter program is the only solution to solving animal troubles in the county.

"Some may disagree. Several have visited with me about that," said Higgins.

Higgins said he is a proponent of enforcement.

"As much as we have an animal control problem, we have an animal owner problem. They need to be held accountable," he said.

Committee members agreed some people would take advantage of a voucher program, but the solution does not address all animal owners, including those who would not take the initiative to have their pets spayed or neutered for free.

Justice of the Peace Dan Thessing said at the start of Tuesday’s meeting that he’d like to see a voucher program enacted.

"I want to see Faulkner County start somewhere. We’re going to move forward, right or wrong," said Thessing. "Those funding the voluntary tax expected us to start something a couple of years ago."

The Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office responds to "countless" animal related calls in the county according to Major Andy Shock. Shock said deputies frequently rely on two Faulkner County residents to take possession of homeless animals.

Courts and Public Safety Committee members are Justices Lauralee Wilcox-McCool, Dan Thessing, Charles Prince, Ancil Lea and Randy Higgins.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)