GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Animal Shelter and Animal Control are changing departments.

The animal shelter will no longer be under the administration of the Kent County Health Department. It will instead be a stand-alone county department. In a press release, the county said this change will allow the health department to “focus more exclusively on human health.”

The animal shelter will still be focused on the care, shelter and feeding of lost and abandoned animals in the county, the release states.

Kent County Animal Control will be reassigned and run by a specially trained team at the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, because the “operations are largely a function of law enforcement,” according to the release.

“We’ve been dispatching for them for a number of years,” said Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young. “They’ve been on our computer system, our radio system, our phone system. So when they thought they should make changes with the animal control and shelter structure the sheriff’s office was an obvious place to look.”

“These decisions are data-driven and reflect nationwide best practices in animal welfare, as well as public safety,” said Kent County Administrator Al Vanderberg.

On June 9, the county board of commissioners voted to create and fund three full-time animal control unit supervisors at the sheriff’s office.

“We’ve added supervisors to this equation — sheriff’s sergeant and a lieutenant — and what that’s going to do is implement policies and procedures around safety for the officers that go out and handle these calls. More awareness about potential criminal things that they might come upon they might not readily recognize without any law enforcement experience,” LaJoye-Young said.

While the supervisors will not be able to arrest people, the sheriff’s deputies in the control unit can make arrests when there is cause to believe a crime has been committed.

“With these changes, animal control operations will be led by sworn law enforcement officers trained to provide oversight and to protect due process in rapidly unfolding legal and civil rights matters,” said LaJoye-Young in a statement.

Kent County reminds residents that if you encounter an animal emergency, like an animal attacking a person or a pet in immediate danger, you should call 911. If you find a stray dog, have been bitten by a dog, or want to report a suspected case of animal cruelty or neglect, you should call the Kent County Sheriff’s Department dispatch at 616.632.7310.