This week, April 9-16, is National Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week. Sometimes, the hardest job turns out to be the most rewarding. People occasionally view animal control officers (ACO) as cruel people because they’re taking away peoples’ pets, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. ACOs enforce local and regional laws regarding the treatment, in addition to the overall care of animals. So, they’re protecting animals that are being poorly treated by their owners.
ACOs generally patrol public areas searching for signs of distressed animals, and respond to calls they receive from community members worried about animals in their neighborhood, or elsewhere. Not only do these officers respond to pets in the area, but they also jump to action when they hear about stray and deceased animals. There are times where the officers have to rescue or capture animals, but they often only execute warnings/citations to certain citizens suspected of mistreatment and animal cruelty.
ACOs jobs can be very rewarding, but occasionally it’s hard to get through the day. Tyra starts her day by arriving at the shelter by 7 a.m. and walking through the kennels to greet every dog. She then begins the process of receiving calls to go certain places where an animal might need help. She’s gone for the day to help stray dogs wondering the streets, return pets to their home, in addition to dealing with loose, aggressive dogs where the owners end up calling her mean names and slamming the door in her face.
After a long day, she goes back to the shelter to photograph, vaccinate, and kennel the animals that she picked up, followed by an overbearing amount of paperwork. She ends up leaving the shelter around 5:30 p.m., but that’s not the end of her day because then after she spends her whole day out in the field, Tyra is on-call all night for emergencies. Around 11 p.m. she receives a call about a dog that was hit by a car. Tyra ends up not getting home until midnight, and then starts her day all over.
ACOs face day-to-day struggles when dealing with animal cruelty. Some of the cruel pet situations they see can be horrifying and traumatic. They’ve seen severely abused and injured dogs, some that are terrified to be touched by humans, or even be close to people, for fear of being hurt again. Some of the cats and dogs have been living on the streets for a long time, starving or infected with disease. It’s not an easy sight for some people, but ACOs have to deal with it on a day-to-day basis, and it takes a person with a strong heart to do that job.
Cindy Schick, an Animal Control Officer in Manteca, California, received a call one day to respond to a cat that was inside the engine compartment of a car. There was a puddle of blood under the car, which made Schick sick to her stomach. The kitten had been hit by a car just moments before it crawled up into the parked vehicle. Schick went to retrieve a metal pole out of her truck to try and leer the cat out. Once she got the cat out of the car, she knew she was going to have euthanized the poor kitten because of how much it was suffering.
“Sometimes people will say dog catcher or dog killer – you don’t care about animals,” Schick said. “But I think I love animals more than they do.”
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 12,970 Animal Control Officers employed in the United States. ACOs save countless animal lives every year. In 2010, Animal services took in over 5,000 animals, in 2012 over 4,000 and in 2014, they took in over 3,000. In 2010 there was roughly 2,500 stray cats brought in by animal control officers, and nearly 1,500 stray dogs brought in.
ACOs should be given more recognition because of the amount of time and hard work they put into their jobs to help animals. These workers are required to be on-call for emergencies on some nights, holidays, and weekends. They also deal with several potentially dangerous situations that put them at risk of getting injured.
Let’s take a moment to recognize all the ACOs and how much hard work they put in day-to-day to not only save animals lives, but to sacrifice a lot of their time to do so. They could be the reason your rescued pet is alive today.