Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I Am Not The Dreaded Dog Catcher

I am an Animal Control Officer.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it is the best of jobs, it is the worst of jobs. On the plus side, I have met and worked with some of the most incredible people, I have made a difference in the lives of thousands of animals, and (most nights) I go to bed feeling like I have made a positive difference in the world. On the other hand, I have met some of the most horrendous people, I've been bitten, brought home fleas, usually smell like poop and am grossly underpaid. When in uniform I am expected to be kind and politically correct. However, here on my blog I don't have those restraints. I'm going to share some things with you that I wish I could say aloud.
  • I am not a "Dog Catcher." I do so much more than just catch dogs. I enforce ordinances, educate the public, investigate dog bites and cruelty complaints, testify in court, care for lost and homeless animals, reunite/rehome animals with families. I work closely with veterinarians, animal rescue groups, the police department, the health department, and Fish & Wildlife. In the animal control community the term "dog catcher" is derogatory and offensive. Please don't use it.
  • Animal Cops is not "real" animal control. Please do not think you know my job because you watch Animal Planet. Although the people are real, Animal Cops is a TV show composed from lots of creative editing. Most of my job is barking complaints, stray cats, neighbor disputes and dogs off leash in public. I deal with five people for every animal I handle. This makes for bad ratings. On the flip side, parts of my job are so horrifying that it would never get past the censors.
  • Please call the office if you need service. If you see me in the supermarket after work, please don't use that time to give me a 20 minute rant on how horrible your neighbor is. I do care -- really! -- but I'm tired and need to get home to feed my children. All the information you want -- ordinances, phone numbers, referral information, paperwork -- is on my desk at work. Please just take my card and call me in the morning.
  • I am not a veterinarian. Yes, I may know more than your average Joe, but I don't feel comfortable giving you medical advice. If your pet is sick, please seek veterinary care. Yes, it can be expensive. That's a drawback to being a pet owner. (I empathize, I have vet bills too.) If you'd like, I can help you find an affordable vet.
  • I am not a dog trainer either. Please consult a professional.
  • "Kill Shelters" (AKA open-admission shelters) are not evil, and neither are those who work there. I don't like killing animals. I work very hard to find homes for homeless animals. I hate that there are more strays than homes willing to take them. I'm hoping that you do too, and that's why you're vilifying me. However, if you need someone to blame, what about the owners who refuse to sterilize their pets instead of letting them breed? Or those who won't chip or tag their pets, so we can't return them? Or those who decide that their animal has become burdensome or inconvenient and dump it in a shelter, only to get a new, younger one later? Oh yea, I've got stories that'll make your blood boil!
  • I don't hate animals. Just because I'm writing you a ticket doesn't mean I'm out to get your dog. More likely, it means you were an irresponsible owner. I tell myself that you're only saying the ugly, hateful things to me because you're embarrassed.
  • I am not a cold-hearted bitch. Truth is, I'm very sensitive. I cry when you're not looking -- A LOT. My reserved demeanor is a defense mechanism. I need to compartmentalize things to keep myself sane. This means I can't join every cause that comes along and I won't write letters to save a dog on death row in another state. Sorry if that upsets you. I do the best I can where I can, and have faith that someone else will come along and do what I can't. Otherwise, I would get ulcers and lose my hair (again).
  • Which brings me to my final point: I can't do it all. It's frustrating when other animal groups pit themselves against animal control, making us out to be the bad guy. Please don't! We're all on the same team, different parts of the machine, working towards the same goal. Because of this, I am pleased to participate in

Blog the Change

Please visit the blogs in this hop and see what others are doing to help animals. -- K