DOBSON — Animal control officers will soon be packing sidearms.
The Surry County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to authorize county officials to purchase Glock .40-caliber pistols for animal control’s five officers.
According to information released by the county, the cost associated with arming the officers with pistols is $4,504.59. The money is available in the current fiscal year’s budget.
It’s not the first time county officials have mulled the subject.
“The board of health was supportive of it in 2009,” noted Health and Nutrition Center Director Samantha Ange, who oversees animal control.
She explained though commissioners appropriated money in 2009 for the purchase of pistols, the board never authorized the officers to carry sidearms. No purchase occurred seven years ago.
Animal Control Supervisor Abraham Doby told commissioners his officers do carry long guns such as rifles and shotguns in their vehicles. However, officers need the accessibility a pistol offers.
“There are a lot of instances in which we don’t have our long guns on us,” explained Doby.
In a subsequent interview, Doby said animal control officers have been bitten in the past, though he said he couldn’t positively say whether access to a pistol would have prevented the injuries.
Doby also noted the pistols are for use only against an aggressive animal, adding animal control officers are not sworn law enforcement officers.
“If we are confronted with a crime, we call law enforcement,” remarked Doby.
Commissioners asked County Attorney Ed Woltz about the legal implications of arming animal control with pistols.
“We are on firm ground,” explained Woltz. “We must heed the recommendations from our insurance company.”
Woltz added it’s not “customary” for animal control officers to carry sidearms in the state, except in those counties in which the Sheriff’s Department runs animal control operations. However, there are no legal barriers to arming the five officers with sidearms.
Doby said his officers, per the insurance company’s guidance, will have to complete the same annual basic law enforcement training program sworn officers complete.
Though Doby is a certified instructor, he must renew his certification. Until then, the sheriff’s office will provide the training, according to Ange.
Doby said he hopes to see himself and his four subordinates armed with their new pistols within the next few months.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.