When it comes to locating owners of escaped livestock, the Columbia County Animal Care and Control staff doesn't want to horse around.
In order to notify livestock owners when an animal has flown its coop or jumped its fence, department personnel have asked those residents to voluntarily register with a county database.
"We have what we call a livestock book out here, and what we've been doing is, if we do get somebody's animals that are out, we go ahead right then and put their information in our book, so we'll have it on hand," said Animal Care and Control Manager Linda Fulmer. "It's helped out a whole lot in the past, so we're just trying to make it a bigger book."
The free service has been around for at least eight years, she said.
This year, the department has recorded about 15 cases of animals escaping from their owners' property. Fulmer said the number of these cases remains about the same each year.
In recent months, cows have been spotted on the Bartram Trail Golf Course off Columbia Road and near Hereford Farm Road at Lewiston Road, Fulmer said.
"The big concern is them getting in a roadway and a vehicle hitting them," she said. "Somebody could get killed."
Livestock typically will wander if they are located in an area lacking grass, or if fences are in need of repair, Fulmer said.
The problem usually involves cows, horses and occasionally goats, she said.
John Harriss, who owns about 400 acres near Louisville Road in the Harlem area, said he has about 60 cows and 30 goats occupying about 180 acres. Harriss has lived in the same house since 1943.
The beef cattle escape from his farm about once a month, said Harriss. The problem mostly occurs in winter, when most grasses in the area are dormant, he said.
The high prices of feed and hay also may contribute to livestock wandering, he added.
"They (cattle) want to roam and feed," he said. "They search for a weak place in the fence."
Harriss said he's building new fences on his property and has formed a relationship with Animal Control staff. If he's contacted about an escaped animal, Harriss said he responds immediately.
"I think it's a good thing, because if they've got addresses, and if somebody rides by and sees something out, they know who to call," he said.
If an owner cannot be located and the animals are impounded, the owner is responsible for paying any impounding costs and boarding fees. After a five-day holding period, any livestock that has not been claimed can be adopted or auctioned off.
Those wanting to register their livestock can do so by contacting Columbia County Animal Care and Control at (706) 541-4077 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information given to Animal Care and Control should include the owner's name, address, phone numbers, description of the livestock and an address where the animals are located.
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