Recognizing the Role of the Animal Control Officer 

Recognizing the Role of the Animal Control Officer 

NACA Statement on Recognizing the Role of the Animal Control Officer NACA recommends animal control officers receive compensation, training, resources, and equipment necessary to perform the critical services they provide to their communities. 

More specifically, NACA advocates animal control officers be given appropriate humane handling equipment, vehicles in good condition, standardized uniforms, and personal safety equipment. Ideally, animal control officers should also have access to microchip scanners, laptop computers, leashes, collars, pet food, pet supplies, and other resources that enable them to effectively support pets and people in their communities. Finally, NACA recommends agencies review officer compensation to determine if existing salaries are sufficient to recruit and retain qualified and skilled animal control officers.

Animal control officers (ACOs) perform a vast number of services related to pets and people. They work long hours, in dangerous situations, in inclement weather, and oftentimes with inadequate resources, training, and equipment. Animal control officers in most areas are responsible for more than enforcing animal laws; they also assist law enforcement as the animal experts in their community, provide the services of social workers, risk their lives as emergency responders, mitigate community member conflicts, and much more.

They work closely with the justice system, including prosecutors and judges, local and state law enforcement agencies, elected and appointed officials, state veterinarian and health department, the local rabies authority, the fire department, code enforcement, and social services agencies. Although not traditionally classified as first responders, animal control officers perform essential work that ensures public safety for both humans and animals.

Here are just a few of the services provided by animal control officers across the U.S.:

  • Overseeing rabies quarantines
  • Rescuing pets in extreme cold and heat
  • Investigating dangerous and vicious dog cases
  • Investigating dog bites
  • Preventing unnecessary shelter intake and helping reunite lost pets with their people
  • Inspecting pet stores and animal rescues
  • Investigating animal neglect, cruelty, hoarding, and intentional acts of abuse
  • Following up on veterinary and court-ordered inspections of homes
  • Addressing noise and waste complaints
  • Mitigating complaints about outdoor and free-roaming cats
  • Rescuing lost and stray animals that are sick, injured or in immediate danger.
  • Providing food, supplies, and medical support to pet owners
  • Repairing/building fences for dog owners
  • Catching and/or trapping individual loose dogs
  • Assisting pet owners who are in crisis, including incarceration and evictions
  • Responding to emergencies
  • Assisting pet owners experiencing homelessness
  • Managing welfare cases and sick or injured wildlife, exotic animals, and farmed animals
  •  Transporting pets
  • Providing humane education and outreach
  • Provide information to owners on humane pet care
  • Picking up and disposing of deceased animals
  • Supporting community cat programs (TNR and SNR)

In summary, animal control officers today perform a wide variety of functions far beyond the outdated “dog catcher” characterization of the past. They deserve to be properly equipped, trained, and compensated for this complex and difficult work. For a complete listing of the recommended guidelines for animal control officers, visit National Animal Care & Control Association website.

Stay Safe,

Jerrica Owen
Executive Director
National Animal Care & Control Association

NACA endorses New Federal Act for Animals in Disasters!

NACA endorses New Federal Act for Animals in Disasters!

As disaster season gets more extreme each year and affects millions of people and their pets, NACA wanted to share with all our members an important piece of legislation we are endorsing. We want to make sure all our members were aware of this important federal bipartisan legislation put forth by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Planning for Animal Wellness (PAW) Act.

The PAW Act directs the Administrator of FEMA to establish an advisory group with outside experts that will align FEMA guidance to match current best practices in animal care for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

This legislation has been carefully reviewed and by endorsed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the Humane Society of the U.S.(HSUS), the Animal Welfare Institute, the National Animal Care & Control Association (NACA), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the National Alliance of State Animal & Agricultural Emergency Programs (NASAAEP), and the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC), of which NACA is a proud member of.

This will truly be a unique opportunity for animal welfare groups who have the knowledge and experience, and subject matter experts to help inform FEMA direction and hopefully support stronger responses to animals during disasters!

NACA has a unique role during disasters, our strength is in our membership and being able to help match the needs with the resources. To find out more about how to get involved during times of disaster, please visit our NACA Disaster Portal for links to training, resources, and other disaster related information.

We thank you for your continued support of the profession, the animals, your communities, and NACA – we couldn’t do it without your dedication to the mission!

Stay Safe,

Jerrica Owen
Executive Director
National Animal Care & Control Association

Deputy Angela Walters – NACA’s June Humane Highlight

Deputy Angela Walters
Cheboygan County Michigan

Deputy Angela Walters is currently one of two deputy Animal Control Officers for Cheboygan County Michigan. Deputy Walters has a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Lake Superior State University and has been proudly serving her community for the past 15 years.  

In her role she has worked with all kinds of animals including cats, dogs, cows, horses, snakes, pigs, and even a bull. Her office is based out of the Cheboygan County Humane Society where she also helps with filing, data entry, statistics, and whatever else is needed. Deputy Walters is thankful and understand that without the help that the Cheboygan County Humane Society staff she could not do her job to its fullest. When asked about her experience as a NACA members, she had this to say “Being a NACA member has been a rewarding experience for me as I love to learn new things and I have enjoyed many of the training programs that are available through NACA. NACA along with the Justice Clearinghouse have made great strides in helping us ACO’s to improve our game by make training more available for small and/or busy departments to get great education. NACA has helped to ease my mind whenever I start to feel unsure of my knowledge in my field as there is always training available. Thank you so much NACA for all that you do for us ACO’s.” 

When Deputy Walters is not at work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter and help with her high school class board, and really likes to dance, paint and read. Thank you to deputy Walters for all you do for the animals, co-workers, and your community!! We are thankful for your dedication and hard work! 

Recognizing the Role of the Animal Control Officer 

NACA Statement on the Potential for Expansion of Courtroom Animal Advocates Program (CAAP) Laws

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Dear colleagues,

NACA wants to thank you for continuing to go above and beyond every day for the animals and people in your communities. At our very core, NACA envisions a world in which all animal care and control professionals are respected as essential public servants and receive consistent support, resources and training allowing them to effectively and compassionately achieve the highest quality of life for the animals and citizens in the community they serve. Please read below for our most current position statement in response to the potential for expansion of Courtroom Animal Advocates Program (CAAP) Laws. This statement is directly in line with that of NACA’s 44-year-old mission, vision, and values. We are honored to be doing our part to help protect those that protect the animals and people in their communities, the brave Animal Control Professionals. Thank you for all you do!

Background

Courtroom Animal Advocate Program (CAAP) is described as “laws that allow legal practitioners – supervised law students or volunteer lawyers – to advocate for animal victims in criminal cruelty cases. Volunteers appear in court and assist the judge by drafting briefs, conducting research, gathering information from veterinarians, animal control officers, and law enforcement officials, and making recommendations on behalf of the animal victim’s interest.”

These laws are based on Desmond’s Law, passed in Connecticut in October 2016, which allows legal advocates to testify on behalf of animal victims in cruelty and neglect cases. The impacts of these laws have yet to be studied and there is no evidence to show the rates of animal crimes have dropped in Connecticut since the law was enacted in 2016.

There is a likelihood that several CAAP laws will be introduced in multiple states this coming year. These laws have the potential to negatively impact animal control agencies and officers.

Animal Control Officers have historically served as advocates for animals in cruelty and neglect cases and we are concerned these laws have a real potential to further marginalize and silence the voices and experiences of the animal control officers themselves. We believe that adding an external advocate to already-complex cases is likely to lead to a divergence of opinions on what is ‘best’ for the animal victim. It is not clear how the varying opinions of the investigating officer, the prosecutor, and the court-appointed advocate would be weighted.

NACA’s Recommendation 

Given the potential negative consequences of CAAP bills, as well as the fact that there is no data to show that CAAP laws achieve their stated purpose, we recommend these laws are carefully studied to determine the impact on animal victims of cruelty and neglect and on the overall welfare of animals. We do not recommend the introduction or adoption of new CAAP legislation at this time, due to this lack of information.

Further, we recommend animal control officers throughout the U.S. are afforded ongoing opportunities to provide meaningful feedback on any bills that will impact animal cruelty and neglect cases in their state.

Animal Control Officers’ Expertise and Experience Should Drive Policy Change

Animal control agencies consistently identify several key challenges related to the successful investigation and prosecution of animal cruelty and neglect cases. These include:

  1.  a critical lack of human and financial resources to adequately investigate and prosecute; and
  2.  a disconnect between animal control officers and the rest of the justice system; and
  3.  a lack of urgency that often results in months to years-long wait for animals in shelter kennels waiting for cases to be heard; and
  4.  a confusing and outdated state and local law when it comes to animal cruelty and neglect.

We ask policymakers to engage with animal control professionals to better understand the issues they face and to create laws and policies to address them.

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With gratitude,

Jerrica Owen, CAWA | Executive Director
National Animal Care & Control Association

NACA Appointment-based Intake Question and Answer

Q: Why did NACA write and share this statement?
A: We know that many pets who enter shelters could have been helped in other ways – through pet support services, proactive return-to-home programs, TNR/SNR, etc. Reducing shelter intake by helping solve pet-related problems is good for communities and is the most responsible use of taxpayer funding. In addition, if more pets can be served in their homes and neighborhoods, the animal shelter can provide better care and outcomes for the pets who truly do need to enter the shelter. The result of appointment-based intake should be better service to pets and people in your community. This statement was created to support public shelters in implementing these practices and inform policymakers about the benefits.

Q: Do you believe animal shelters should turn pets away from intake, except in emergency
situations?
A: No. What the NACA statement recommends is that shelters pursue alternative avenues to intake for non-emergency situations and provide a way for people to contact the shelter before bringing in a pet so they can talk with a staff person or volunteer to determine if there is another option for the pet and to make an intake appointment if there is not another viable option.

Q: We have no one on our staff who can answer a telephone or respond to e-mail. Appointment-
based intake seems to rely on a person who can make an appointment. Does this mean we can’t
follow your recommendation?
A: We recognize that not every agency has the privilege to have a dedicated staff member to provide counseling and support and make intake appointments when necessary. If you’re in this situation, you may consider starting a volunteer pet support program, to train and utilize volunteers to provide alternatives to shelter intake to people who come to the shelter. They can even set up a table or work with your admissions staff to help people access resources that can help them keep their pets.

Q: I’m firmly against appointments, but I do support helping people keep their pets out of shelters.
Why is the appointment a necessary part of this?
A: The short answer, is that the act of scheduling non-emergency intake through an appointment system is not the most important part of the NACA statement. However, the appointment system gives the shelter the opportunity to intervene in the intake before the pet and person show up at the door. We know that once people are at the shelter, they have already come to a place of emotional separation that makes it harder for interventions to be effective. In the case of found animals, the animal has also been removed from its neighborhood of origin and the opportunity for a local reunion may have been missed. Ideally, a good pet support system should have remote AND in-person pet support to help people whether they call first or just show up. Appointments are very useful to shelters because they give the organization time to speak with pet owners or finders to get the most important information to prepare for intake of the pet or to help keep the pet in its home or community.

Q: Your statement doesn’t specify how long people should have to wait for an intake appointment.
What is your recommendation about this?

A: It depends, different communities have different thresholds, and some places have intake appointments on the same day whereas, in others, people wait longer to bring in pets. It also depends on the resources you have to manage intake and the capacity of your shelter. During June, when your shelter is 10% above capacity for care, you may ask people to hold pets for several weeks. As always, regardless of how long your intake wait time is, your organization should always immediately accommodate pets who are truly unable to be held and for whom no other viable options exist. Finders and local shelters should work closely with each other to ensure they’re following
ordinances and recommendations for giving lost pets the best chance possible before they are rehomed.

Q: If someone cannot make an appointment, and needs to bring a found pet in immediately, do you
suggest we tell people to leave the pet where they found it?

A: It depends. In situations where pets or people are at risk, immediate intake is recommended. Some same day, “popup” appointments should be received to accommodate such situations. Where there is no immediate threat, an assessment should be made balancing the risks of admission with the risks of remaining in place. For instance, a dog found running loose on a busy street should be prioritized for admission while a freeroaming cat that has been spotted chronically in the area can generally be safely deferred or redirected to other services.


Q: Won’t fewer people want to help a lost pet if they think they have to hold it instead of being able
to bring it to the shelter? Couldn’t this cause the public to look away and leave needy pets on the
streets?

A: There are many animal shelters big and small, urban, and rural, that have been practicing appointmentbased intake for multiple years. There is no evidence to suggest that people are less likely to help a pet if they will be asked to be part of the solution to getting that pet home, rehoming it, or in cases of owner surrender, be given options to keep their pet. Managed admission may actually help shelters reach people who avoided contacting the shelter in the past for fear the pet might be euthanized. Appointmentbased intake allows a conversation to take place resulting in a balanced assessment of the needs of the animal, the finder or owner’s ability to participate in solutions, and the shelter’s capacity. Importantly, the shelter must always be available to take in pets when there are no other viable options, or a person is unable or unwilling to help. In the past, people may even have avoided contacting the shelter for fear the pet’s welfare would be compromised. Managed admission allows a conversation to take place resulting in a balanced assessment.


Q: I can understand implementing appointments for owner surrenders, but I don’t agree with stray
finders having to make appointments. Why did you include stray and lost pets in your statement
?
A: Recent research has shown that most dogs are found close to home and that dogs are more than ten times as likely to be reunited with their families through neighborhood-based connections versus a call or visit to an animal shelter. Offering even a same-day appointment for finders can provide the opportunity to have a conversation and see if the finder is willing to ask around the neighborhood or take other steps to look for the owner locally before bringing the dog in. Posting on social media or other lost and found website scan result in finding the owner within minutes, in some cases more conveniently and quickly for both parties as well as bypassing a shelter stay for the dog. If the finder is unable to hold the dog for even a short time, an instant appointment can be provided and capacity for these should be ensured.

Q: I heard animal shelters are closing their doors to intake and using your statement to justify this. How would you respond to that allegation?

A: The NACA appointment-based intake statement is intended to help animal services agencies create intake policies and practices that help keep pets with their families and to get more lost pets home faster. It is not the purpose of this position statement to recommend that shelters close to intake by any means, on the contrary, managed admissions and intake by appointment recognizes the critical importance of shelters maintaining the capacity for exigent situations including sick, injured, dangerous,and displaced animals. However, all organizations have an upper limit to their capacity to maintain minimum standards for the safety and health of the animals in their care. In a time of historic staffing shortages, some shelters have been forced to make difficult decisions regarding the types of animals that can be safely accommodated.

Q: What is wrong with just taking in all the pets that come to the door? That’s what we’re mandated
to do so we’re neglecting our duties if we don’t.

A: All organizations have an upper limit to their capacity to maintain safe and healthy conditions for the animals and people in the facility. Like hospitals and veterinary clinics, shelters should exercise a thoughtful process to ensure capacity for exigent cases (sick, injured, dangerous, and displaced animals, owners, or finders in crisis) and provide options for those animals that can’t be immediately accommodated safely.

 

Humane Highlight – Chris Meyer

Chris Meyer
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Animal Care & Control Division

Chris is an enforcement Officer for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Animal Care & Control Division. He has been in this position for two years. During this period, he has been assigned to several specialized units within the organization from H.A.S.S, Investigations, and E.R.T. His cases range from assisting pet owners within the community in obtaining rabies vaccinations, dog houses, and tethers, to enforcing Animal Cruelty Misdemeanors charges and other City and County ordinances.

Officer Meyer takes pride in serving his community. He believes that enforcement and education go hand in hand to improve animal welfare and community relations. Officer Meyer is passionate about the Organization’s Mission to Animal welfare in both the Shelter and Field environment. He strives to provide support to not only the animals and citizens he serves but also to his coworkers.

Officer Meyer obtained a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has also completed the NCAF Animal Welfare Professional Certificate level I to better himself within the profession.

Prior to his employment with Animal Care & Control, Officer Meyer served over 9 years in the United States Marine Corps and deployed four times during his time in the Marines. He is now a Military Police Officer in the North Carolina National Guard. He has deployed twice for Hurricane assistance.

Officer Meyer is a proud dog dad to the Great Pyrenees named “Bear”. When he’s not at work, he can be found on a golf course or cheering on one of his New York sports teams (Islanders, Yankees, Jets). He has adopted the Charlotte Hornets as his hometown team due to his time working as a Guest Experience Supervisor for the Hornets Sports and Entertainment Organization.

When asked Chris said “Being a member of NACA to me means that I am a member of a passionate and professional group of people who truly care about the safety and well-being of animals in the field and shelter settings. As a member of NACA, I have the ability to become technically and tactfully proficient within the Animal Welfare profession to better myself, my peers, and the community that I serve.”

Thank you, Chris, for the amazing work, dedication, and compassion you show every day! NACA is proud to feature you as the May 2022 Humane Highlight!