If you want to be a sheriff’s deputy in Erath County - you’re going to need some cowboy wrangling skills.
According to Sheriff Tommy Bryant, his office has received nearly 750 calls on roaming livestock throughout the county from January through July.
Bryant said with only 10 deputies covering a large, heavily populated county, the calls create a hardship and expenses that are, by and large, unnecessary.
“We understand that animals are going to get out of the best of fences,” Bryant said. “But the majority are out because a gate was left open or because the fence is in poor condition.
“We try so hard to be lenient. The first offense is usually a warning. But a repeat offender can be cited for each individual animal in the amount of $250 up to $500. It’s also a liability issue should someone be injured or killed - the owner can be sued civilly.”
Bryant said Erath County is a closed range and animals are not allowed to roam.
His deputies have even gone so far as to repair fences in the middle of the night.
“It eats up a lot of the deputies’ time that could be spent on other things,” Bryant said. “And it becomes expensive when we have to estray an animal.”
Bryant said when that occurs someone has to be hired to pick up and trailer the animal to a sale barn and a classified ad has to run for several days in hopes of alerting the owner. The sale barn also has to be compensated for caring for the animal.
“If the owner comes forward then they have to pay those fees,” Bryant said. “They are a minimum of $300.”
Bryant said if it’s a horse or a cow, the owner will usually show up to claim it, but if it’s a goat that will only sell for $10, then that’s another story.
Bryant said many times the animals are just run back into an area to keep them from becoming a traffic hazard whether they really belong to that property owner or not. Bryant said neighbors are good at recognizing whose animals they belong to.
He said the area is filled with weekend farmers that live in the Metroplex, and tracking down owners has become a problem.
“It would help if people would brand their animals and register the brand at the county clerk’s office,” Bryant said. “We would have access to that and then the owner could be identified much faster.”