MERKEL, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – People of Merkel have been voicing a new concern about cats and dogs at large throughout town.

“Unfortunately, one of these dogs is going to attack the kids or the elderly,” warned Willie Perrie, a Merkel local.

Freda Sturgeon, another resident, told KTAB/KRBC she took measures to her own hands to build a strong privacy fence to keep her dogs safe.

“We put the fence up to keep our dogs in and keep other dogs from messing with our dogs,” Sturgeon explained.

Due to staffing shortages across the city, Merkel Police Chief Phillip Conklin said he’s working on getting more manpower.

“Probably for the past year, we’ve had additional tasking because of staffing shortages across the city,” said Chief Conklin.

Alongside dealing with staffing shortages at the police station for years, according to Chief Conklin, police are also taking the responsibility of animal control.

“There’s not always somebody,” Chief Conklin expanded. “We try to have someone on staff or on-call, but… Because of our staffing, we may not always have someone 24/7 that’s going to be available to respond to animal control type calls.”

Ronit Wells of Merkel told KTAB/KRBC the city needs its own animal control officer to see any changes, “Its a small town. We don’t have a large police force. They work hard to do that. They do when people call about it, but there’s other things they have to do. It’s not their main concern.”

Wells said there needs to be more awareness about the staffing shortages, so that outside sources can step in and help.

“Do more to help the neighborhood and build. You know, protect it. Get rid of the strays, open a shelter or something for them- animal control shelter or something, a pound… That way they’re not on the street, and start spaying and neutering them,” suggested Wells.

Meanwhile, Chief Conklin said there are many factors contributing to the staff shortage.

“I think it’s a little bit of everything. I think its society has shifted, and the workforce- the pay is certainly something that has to be talked about,” Chief Conklin offered.

The department said it would thinking of ways to incentivize young people to work in public safety. Currently, the department said it is in the process of hiring a code enforcement officer who would also serve as animal control.

Although the city is small, Sturgeon said it needs more than one officer, “They need a couple of them. They do for this side and that side because they drop them off everywhere.”

The code enforcement position is expected to be filled within the next month or so, but Merkel PD said thanks to a partnership with the Taylor County Sheriff’s Department, officers are working together to keep the community safe amid staffing shortages.