Animal Control or not in the City of Jackson TN

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This article has been updated and corrected as of 11/29/2018.

70 years ago here in the city of Jackson and the county of Madison there was no such thing as a dedicated animal control system. Animals were captured and destroyed generally by carbon dioxide poisoning and the remains burned. Most of this was left up to the sheriff and his deputies or the police. There were few laws regarding the containment of animals other than agricultural and probably not much in regards to even that. Some of our first laws in regards to dogs as well as other animals only go back as far as 1932.  Today the law is specific, state wide dogs are not allowed to roam freely (Tennessee State Code # 44-8-408) excluding some exceptions. When it does happen there are a series of misdemeanors and fines that could be applied to the owner. (And it that lies the means to escape prosecution.)

Prior to the city of Jackson, Madison County, which abides by state law, authorized the creation of an animal control center and the building of an animal shelter. In 1972, the city joined into the game by creating its own version of the state requirements.  By creating its own “health officer” the city avoided merging with the county. Whether it was purposely done or not, it may have been another crack in the city county relationship.

Under the county’s program the responsibility of animal control fell to the Madison County Director of Public Health. It has remained that way since the 1950’s. The merger of the city and county, in regards to animal control, is one of those ever sifting agreements where the city holds the majority of the cards.

So what is the story here…. We are looking the “new City of Jackson Animal Control” except for the fact that the control card is left out. Specifically the city is now violating it’s own ordinances as well violating state law.


Title 10, Jackson City Charter:

10-102.  Running at large prohibited. It shall be unlawful for any person raising, owning and/or keeping any dog or other animal to willfully suffer or permit any such creature to run at large upon the public streets, avenues, alleys, parks or other public property of the city, or to willfully suffer or permit any dog or other animal to run at large or to go upon the premises owned or in possession of or under the control of any other person in the city.  (1972 Code, § 6-38)

The city of Jackson, has decided to not own up to its own charter and not supply a service that the citizens of Jackson have so long depended upon and Madison County has decided, through policy, to sit back and watch.

Neither are correct.

So What Has Happened 

The city at this time is using Tennessee code (44-8-408. Dogs not allowed at large — Exception — Penalties.) to authorize it’s newly created agency to perform the collection of animals that are loose. That same code states that:

(a)As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, “owner” means a person who, at the time of the offense, regularly harbors, keeps or exercises control over the dog, but does not include a person who, at the time of the offense, is temporarily harboring, keeping or exercising control over the dog.

(b) The owner of a dog commits an offense if that dog goes uncontrolled by the owner upon the premises of another without the consent of the owner of the premises or other person authorized to give consent, or goes uncontrolled by the owner upon a highway, public road, street or any other place open to the public generally.

The city of Jackson, under the Mayor’s direction and the council’s approval, decided to take things in a different direction in 2017 by taking control of the Jackson-Madison County Humane Society’s building on Pinnacle Drive, renaming it the City of Jackson Animal Care Center, hence ending it’s financial instability and possibly it’s association with Rabies Control of Madison County.

“It was obvious to everyone involved that the Humane Society wasn’t sustainable long term,” Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist said. “I’m convinced that we are a people judged by the care of our animals, and the only option left was to try and get it sustainable by a collaboration between the Humane Society, all the rescue groups and the city.”

Of course, this has been obvious for over 10 years but the city and county kept dumping money into the facility. With the city’s take over, the signs should have been obvious to anyone with a nose that the relationship between city and county, in regards to loose animals, policy would change once the city acquired the Humane Society.

Policy – a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by a government, party, business, or individual.”the administration’s controversial economic policies”

So, what happens if a pack of strays decides to roam and ravage in the city of Jackson. Do you call Madison County Rabies Control or the Jackson Animal Care Center which is managed by the team of popular gay activist Frank McMeen of West Tennessee Health Care Foundation, and progressive Vickie Lake, also of West Tennessee Health Care?

Today the city uses the lame excuse of vicious dogs as means to deny service……. 

The state law has no exclusions for that. The law states that, without exception, animals must be collected and the owner charged. With the creation of this agency, there is no exception to the collection of loose animals (dogs, cats, raccoons, ground hogs, etc.). If we were attorneys, we would sue the city for violation of state law, but that would be such a waste… the city wouldn’t abide by it.

You might think that this is also in conjunction with public safety as well as lessening private property damage caused by loose packs of dogs and you would be correct.

By the way, private property includes your pets that are killed or hurt caused by roaming packs and not just your trash cans or the debris strewn across yours and your neighbor’s property. That cost to the owner could be quite large considering the investing you make on buying and keeping your animals. 

Okay our first instinct would say that you call Madison County Animal Control but they will tell you that you are not within their policy jurisdiction if you reside within the city limits. They might suggest you call the city of Jackson Police Department which will investigate and then, if the dogs are vicious, will place a call to the Jackson Animal Care Center. Think your problem is solved! Not quite for they have no space for abandoned dogs so the dogs continue to roam which is violation of the state of Tennessee health codes.

You see these animals may or may not have ever been vaccinated for rabies and could be carrying a variety of ills.

ra·bies – noun – a contagious and fatal viral disease of dogs and other mammals that causes madness and convulsions, transmissible through the saliva to humans.

If unvaccinated, in humansrabies is almost always fatal after neurological symptoms have developed. Even if you are bitten or scratched, the Honor Society of Nursing recommends you to seek medical advice immediately.

In the past, the citizens of Jackson and county residents used to make a single call to Jackson Madison County Animal Control which was jointly supported by Madison County and the city of Jackson. Today that is not true.

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal within the city you might expect a visit from an Animal Control officer within a day or two. That very well could be true in the county, but if you reside in the city there is evidence that may never happen.

Has the city and the county left its residents unprotected?

The answer to that is YES.

As of this publication the City of Jackson has not responded to this article while the Madison County Public Health Department has.

*This article was updated and corrected 11/29/2018. Lynn Caldwell was removed from management of the newly created Jackson Animal Care Center.

Ms. Caldwell did state on Facebook that she wrote the original proposal in 2012 for the city of Jackson and Madison county as opposed to the directors Mr. McMeen and Dr. Lake. This has been confirmed by a second source. Also confirmed was her statement that the county opted to withdraw due to “the histrionics of Mayor Gist.” This has also been confirmed by a second and third source.

Our apologies to Ms. Caldwell.

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