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Fort Smith residents urging city officials and animal control to ‘step up’

Following the death of a dog in front of her home, Jayne Alford, is calling for changes to be made.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — As Jayne Alford’s family enjoyed the long Thanksgiving weekend of 2022, her normally quiet neighborhood near Free Ferry and 46th Street was met with commotion.

“I heard a loud sound and I knew what had happened,” Alford recalled.

Alford says while standing in her front yard, she saw a dog running along the street. Moments later, a car traveling in the same direction passed by, followed by a loud thud.

"The car never stopped," said Alford. 

“I went to the end of my driveway and turned to my right and looked, and there was a dog in the middle of the road,” said Alford. “The dog was still convulsing after being hit.”

A passerby saw what happened and stopped to render any aid to the animal. Alford says members of her family, the other driver, and neighbors attempted to comfort the dog as much as possible while pulling it to the side of the road on sheets of cardboard. Shortly after the dog died due to injuries sustained in the crash.

“The impact for the dog was just incredible, and there was a lot of trauma there,” Alford said.

Alford has called this corner home for more than 30 years – she says this was an incident she will always remember for all the wrong reasons.

Months later, the incident still visibly bothers Alford. On January 5 – a letter was sent to City officials and the Chief of Police describing what happened in detail among other issues. On that Friday, Alford says she called Fort Smith Animal Control, but was told no wardens would be able to assist for a minimum of three days.

In a letter sent to 5NEWS, Alford describes the delay as unacceptable for a town of nearly 90,000 residents. The letter reads, “My greatest disappointment is that animal control is nonexistent in this city. What has happened to our animal control? [ it ] places the burden on our community to capture and contain wandering dogs, seek any identification, and work to find the rightful owner. From conversations with friends and others concerned about the animal control issues, they too, want something done to solve these problems.”

Fort Smith Police and Animal Control were not able to comment but did provide the letter Chief Daniel Baker sent in response:

The City of Fort Smith does not, nor has it ever in the 22 years I have worked here, employed enough Animal Control Officers to provide 24/7 coverage.

Chief Baker’s letter continued:

We do have animal control ordinances that are being enforced. There are also state laws regarding the treatment of animals. We enforce those as well. That is not to say there aren’t issues that need to be addressed legislatively. I believe our administration and elected officials are working hard to develop an ordinance that best fits Fort Smith and Fort Smith’s needs.

Alford says she welcomes continued conversations about providing more assistance to the animals of Fort Smith and increasing funding for animal control. As a proponent of stronger spay and neuter laws, Alford believes this is a first step towards reducing the number of animals on the streets that are subject to being hit by vehicles.

“Other cities are making the decisions to fund these organizations, the animal control, and Fort Smith is just going to have to step up,” said Alford.

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