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It has been a week since the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office took over animal control duties, and the phone is ringing off the hook. 

"Since July 1, they've been extremely busy," Sheriff Duane Lewis said. "I've been listening in on the radio ... and they've had quite a few calls throughout the day."

Earlier this month, the law enforcement office took over the duties from the Berkeley County Animal Center, which Lewis said was already heavily occupied with maintaining the shelter for stray animals. Currently, four animal control officers work 12-hour shifts and are in charge of handling domestic strays and aggressive animals in one of the state's largest counties. 

A little more than $267,000 was approved at the end of June by County Council to run the new animal control operation. 

It is in stark contrast to how the animal control program previously was run. In February 2017, Berkeley County Animal Control stopped responding to calls of stray dogs in the county. It would pick up the animal if it was injured or posed a threat or if it was contained. 

Now, Lewis said he has analyzed call volumes to see when the officers need to be available. 

The change was part of ongoing discussion Lewis had with County Supervisor Johnny Cribb, who looked at how nearby counties handled animal control. Charleston County, for example, runs animal control through its Sheriff's Office. 

Berkeley County's animal control is overseen by one captain, Lewis said. Deputies can cite residents for violating county and state ordinances relating to animal abuse or violations. Calls will go to dispatch before being directed to the animal control office. 

Hanahan and Goose Creek also have their own animal control officers, sheriff's spokeswoman Carli Drayton said. Any calls from within those city limits will be directed to them. 

Lt. Robert Vazquez with the Goose Creek Police Department said the countywide shift to animal control "has been a new change." He said it is too early to tell what effects it would have on the city. Goose Creek has two animal control officers to manage stray animals. 

Meanwhile, the Berkeley County Animal Shelter has been inundated with strays. Just last month, the shelter asked the public to step up and adopt animals after the shelter had more than 600 cats, dogs, puppies, kittens and rabbits on hand.

The large adoption population is attributed, in part, to the Doc Williams SPCA closing at the end of 2018 because of financial woes. 

"With the help of our team and the citizens of Berkeley County, we will strive to tackle all animal issues and concerns in the county in a timely and appropriate manner," Lewis said in a statement. 

The new phone number for Berkeley County Animal Control is 843-719-4300. 

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Reach Thomas Novelly at 843-937-5715. Follow him @TomNovelly on Twitter. 

Thomas Novelly reports on crime, growth and development as well as military issues in Berkeley and Dorchester counties. Previously, he was a reporter at the Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a fan of Southern rock, bourbon and horse racing.

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