TUPELO • The city’s police department is reorganizing its animal control efforts to have better response time to animal complaints within the city.

Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre announced the plans at a city budget hearing on Thursday. He said the department plans to have “animal control specialists” who would only be responsible for handing animal calls while on duty.

“These officers would have an incentive on their salary,” Aguirre said. “They would be ready to respond to any call.”

He told the Daily Journal the plans for the department change are still underway and does not know what incentives the “specialists” would receive, but it would be something to attract them to the new position.

He said the department’s efforts in the past have been limited because of the small number of officers who currently deal with animal complaints. Aguirre said the officers do a good job, but they often end up being on call for an extended period of time.

“We had two animal control officers, and one of the officers could be on call for 24 hours or the whole week,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre said under the new structure of animal control, he would ideally like two animal specialists for each shift, which would equal to eight new officers, but he knows that may not be likely.

Don Lewis, the city’s chief operating officer, told the council he was excited about this new change, but stressed the public should contact the police department for their animal complaints and not just post about animal issues on social media or only complain to a council member.

The change at the department comes after Ward 2 Councilman Lynn Bryan openly criticized the police department’s efforts to handle certain animal control problems in the city limits.

“The concerning thing is that when 911 is called, either the officer or officers are not on duty, aren’t available, can’t do anything about it, or something like that,” Bryan previously said.

After Aguirre announced the change at the Tuesday meeting, Bryan told Aguirre he was glad the department is coming up with a plan to address the concerns.

taylor.vance@journalinc.com Twitter: @taylor_vance28

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