Friday, August 16, 2013

Wanna Be An ACO?

My new partner quit less than a year after she was hired. Once again I am the sole animal control officer in my tiny beach town. I have no idea how long it will take to find a second ACO. It took 9 months to find her! Thinking about applying? Here are a few tips:
  • Don't apply if you want to make money. Seriously! Most ACOs I know have second jobs, drive old cars and live in tiny houses (with lots of animals). I've been doing this 8+ years and make less than $30K/yr.
  • Don't apply if you "love animals but hate people." For every animal I encounter I talk to at least five people -- owners, potential adopters, complainants, nosy neighbors, concerned citizens, bite victims, crazy cat ladies, park rangers, police officers, lawyers, local politicians, veterinarians, rescue group coordinators, etc.
  • Don't apply if you want to be liked. Two thirds of the people above will not like you. 
  • Do not apply if you "want to be a voice for the animals." If that's what you want, join a rescue group. Don't get me wrong, I work very hard to make sure that all animals in my jurisdiction are treated humanely but ACOs work for the City. Our job is to enforce ordinances and keep the peace. Fostering newborn kittens and rehabilitating dogs is left to other, more qualified organizations. (Or you do it on your off time -- but that's a whole other story . . . .)
  • Do not apply if you are a germaphobe. I carry a card in my wallet listing all the zoonotic diseases I may be exposed to. And with this job you will get dirty -- really dirty. And you will get bitten. And contract fleas.
  • Do not apply if you are "sensitive." Some days this job sucks. Animals die, and all too often I'm the one who kills them (either directly or indirectly). Sometimes the law isn't fair, and I have to declare a little old lady's dog dangerous, knowing that the retirement home is going to make her get rid of her only friend. Sometimes I have to watch an asshole "get away with it" because he has a lawyer (or is a lawyer and plays golf with the judge). Yes, I cry. And scream in frustration. A lot. But then I put on my big girl panties and soldier on.
Catch of the Day

Sometimes I get really frustrated and think: I'd like a job where I made more money. Or maybe a job where I can use my college degree. And I would really like a job where people say things like "Thank You" and "You're Great" instead of  "Fuck you, you fat bitch." (Yes, people actually say that, though sometimes they substitute "stupid" for "fat.")

So why do I do this job? Maybe because I'm a little nutty or perhaps a tad passive-aggressive. I like to be outside instead of tied to a desk all day. I like having several different things going on at once. I would probably go crazy if I did the same thing all day, every day. To my surprise, I actually like people (in small doses). And it's fun to post pictures on Facebook of an alligator in a cage with captions like "Look what I did at work today." I don't mind being dirty and have learned to tolerate nosy neighbors, politicians and crazy cat ladies. And some of them I actually consider friends. Most of all, I like to think that what I do makes a difference. So until the super-awesome, better paying, less confrontational job comes along, I'll keep doing this. And I'll keep posting crazy stories. Deal? -- K