By Jack Minor
Animal Control Officers are often categorized as simply dogcatchers. Police Chief Jerry Garner says that is what they used to be, but over the years they have become so much more.
A recent ride-along illustrated that Animal Control duties include far more than simply picking up stray dogs and cats. The ACO’s actually work closely with other police officers and will assist them with their duties. For example, with a serious traffic accident, the ACO’s are often called out to assist with directing traffic. They will also work hand-in-hand with officers on any type of call involving animals.
During the ride along with ACO Unrein, we received a call of a loose dog. Upon arriving at the house, Unrein got out and saw that the dog was loose because someone had left a gate open. After Unrein secured the animal inside the yard, he advised me we would need to wait for uniformed officers to arrive. Since the gate was open and the property owner was not present, the officers would have to verify that the home had not been burglarized. The officers arrived, met with the homeowner, and it was verified that everything was fine.
The next call involved a vicious dogl. After pulling up in the area, Unrein got out of the truck and from 100 feet away, the dog rushed the officer. Unrein had to use his pepper spray to back the dog off. After capturing the dog, a boxer mix, he placed her in the truck and spoke gentle words to her. In this instance, the individual who made the complaint declined to press charges. “It’s kind of frustrating”, he said “when we have a clear case of a vicious dog such as this.” In the end, all Unrein was able to do was issue a citation for dog at large.
Animal control has come under criticism recently for its handling of an elderly woman who hoarded multiple cats at her house. Unrein said, “What people need to realize is we can only do what the law allows. We did receive multiple complaints about her house, however, when we went there, she would not allow us in and we did not have probable cause for entry.” Currently Greeley does not have a law limiting the number of cats and dogs a person can have in their home.
Chief Garner said his officers do not have the power to enter homes without legal grounds. Garner did say there are steps they are taking to help prevent similar hoarding incidents in the future, noting that in most instances of animal hoarding some sort of mental illness is involved. “In many cases hoarders have fallen between the cracks with social service systems and the last ones to get involved are the Police and animal control.” According to Garner, to prevent similar cases they are trying to develop better communications between agencies. For example, “If someone goes to the home on a welfare check because the people are not eating or are living in squalor and during the check it’s found they have 20 cats they notify animal control.” Another thing they want to do is follow up on homes that have been cited for hoarding animals. Garner said that generally speaking, once a person starts hoarding animals he will do it again.
The city currently only has two animal control officers, and Garner said there is a possibility they may need to add a third officer. He mentioned that having two officers for a city of 90,000 is “running pretty lean.”
Garner said if they receive a call after hours and it involves someone who has captured an animal they ask for them to keep it until an ACO comes on duty. If a vicious or injured animal call comes in they will either send a regular officer out or call in an off duty ACO.
The ACO’s definitely have the respect of their peers; several officers told the Gazette that they feel the ACO’s have more difficult jobs than the officers patrolling the streets. Garner said you definitely have to have a heart for animals to do the job and do it well.
When asked if they had a message for Gazette readers both Garner and Unrein said, “simply spay and neuter your pets.”
Animal Control Officer Rod Unrein meets with Officer Justin Whipple on a call
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Posted by Jack Minor in General News category