Congratulations to the NACA 2022 Award Recipients!

Written by NACA

October 31, 2022

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2022 National Animal Care & Control Association Award Winners

Animal Control Officer of the Year – Lawrence Higginbottom (Memphis, TN)

Humane Law Enforcement Officer of the Year – Dany Flores- Lopez (Deerwood, MD)

Animal Care and Control Employee of the Year – Jessica Every (Land O’Lakes, FL)

Bill Lehman Memorial Award – Jacob Kamins (Corvallis, OR)

Diane Lane Memorial Award – Andy Heuer (Davenport, IA)

Outstanding Animal Care and Control Award – Stratford County Animal Control (Stratford, CT)

Outstanding State Association Award – Louisiana Animal Care and Control Association (LA)

Animal Control Officer of the Year –
Lawrence Higginbottom (Memphis, TN)

Officer Lawrence Higginbottom is one of those rare people who is gifted with both humans and animals. His huge smile, positive attitude, and kindness have made him beloved among the staff at Memphis Animal Services.

Officer Higginbottom has enthusiastically embraced the elements of Community-Supported Sheltering that are related to the field department. He leads the pack in Field RTOs. This summer, we had a Field RTO Challenge for the field team, and he was the winner, having returned four pets straight back home in the month-long challenge period.

Memphis Animal Services’ pet reunification program was featured in a local online newspaper called the Daily Memphian in an article called “Homeward bound: New model aims to reunite Memphis pets, owners.” Officer Higginbottom hosted the reporter and photographer in a ridealong to show them how we work to reunite in the field.

The article opens with a narrative of Higginbottom stepping in front of a police officer with a gun—both to protect that officer from the dog on scene, and to protect the dog from that officer. The reporter Don Wade paints a picture of a skilled professional, calm under pressure, and compassionate toward an animal that is apparently prepared to harm him—or at least wants him to believe she is. It’s how we all want our Animal Services Officers to be viewed.

“Lawrence Higginbottom is standing behind a Shelby County Sherriff’s deputy, the deputy’s gun pointed toward the sound of loud barking and vicious growling.

As the deputy holds his gun with his right hand, he uses his left hand and foot to keep the front door of a house in Hickory Hill open but a few inches. Behind that door is what must be a very large — and territorial — dog. Which is why Higginbottom, a city animal control officer, is here.

The resident is not home — no response coming from within when the deputy repeatedly shouts that he is here to serve eviction papers and that he is armed.

So, now it’s one huge dog barely inside the house and two men — one holding a gun, the other a catch pole with a noose — standing on the front stoop.

The man with the gun knows it is time to defer.

Higginbottom steps in front of the deputy. Holding the catch pole in his right hand with his left hand on the doorknob, Higginbottom uses the partially open door as a shield; he peers around to get a look at the teeth that go with all that barking and growling.

“He’s wagging for you,” the deputy tells Higginbottom, “he’s waiting to eat me … don’t think I won’t (shoot).”

Higginbottom stays in the moment: “Here boy, c’mon boy, c’mon boy.”

He says this over and over, taking his time. The barking and growling come down a notch. Next, he asks for a leash, which means he believes he can move toward the dog. Soon, there is silence, and the dog — a thick pit bull that later will weigh in at almost 70 pounds at the Memphis Animal Services shelter — is bouncing out the door on said leash.

Within a minute outside the house, a dog that was at risk for taking one right between the eyes is up on her hind legs, loving on Higginbottom. As he pets the pit bull that he dubs “Rogue,” he smiles, all but whispering, don’t call me a dog catcher… “

The article detailed Officer Higginbottom’s efforts to reunite lost dogs in the field, including knocking on doors to ask neighbors and patrolling the area looking for broken-down fences or openings.

Officer Lawrence Higginbottom is a shining example of what an Animal Services Officer should be in a progressive animal services agency.

Humane Law Enforcement Officer of the Year –
Dany Flores- Lopez (Deerwood, MD)

Animal Services Officer Dany Flores-Lopez has served Montgomery County Office of Animal Services with distinction and provided the highest level of service and professionalism to our community. His unselfish, team-oriented approach to his work is both appreciated by his co-workers and the residents of the County. His calm, friendly and supportive demeanor shows up every day, even when he is supporting care staff at the shelter by helping to clean and setup kennels, working with intake staff, or assisting dispatch with issues related to officer response. As a senior officer, he is relied upon by less experienced officers and staff to provide the highest level of advice and guidance needed to succeed in this field. Though he is consistent in his enforcement of state and local laws and regulations, His patience and willingness to educate first to gain compliance and ensure that animals care and welfare comes first is admired and appreciated. His services reflect great credit upon himself and the organization, but even more so for the Animal Control Officer profession.

Animal Care and Control Employee of the Year – Jessica Every (Land O’ Lakes, FL)

Jessica Every started with Pasco County Animal Services in 2012 as an Animal Care Technician. Since then, Jessica has earned the role of Shelter Supervisor. She oversees the animal care team of 14, caring for over 150 kennels and 7,500 animals every year. Additionally, Jessica chairs the PCAS Assessment Board, dedicated to helping find alternative outcomes for animals in the most need at the shelter including hard to place medical and behavior cases. And Jessica acts as the organization’s system administrator for animal management software.

In 2022, Pasco County Animal Services underwent a major overhaul of the animal management software transitioning from Pet Point to Chameleon software. With the organization unable to afford data or file transfers of any kind, Jessica herself learned the system in a matter of weeks and helped transfer all current animals, create all existing needed reports, and help create training materials for the entirety of the PCAS team.

As a result, the organization is now functioning expertly under the new software. PCAS has automated reporting and files to citizens and cut the data entry process for medical triage on the Veterinary Services team from an hours long process down to 9 seconds per day. Per the representatives from HLP and Chameleon, Jessica’s expertise in such a short period of time is some of the brightest work they have seen in the history of their software’s organization.

Jessica prides herself on the work her team does for the animals in their care and the community in their charge. In a world facing tremendous staff turnover, vacant positions, and the constant threat of the ‘great resignation’ Jessica’s animal care team remains fully staffed without vacant positions or a single team member leaving in the last 16 months. In addition to a team working the most physically demanding position in the organization on a daily basis, for the lowest pay, Jessica’s team continues to provide excellent customer service to potential adopting citizens, citizens having to make the difficult decision to have their pet euthanized and many more services. And lastly, over the last several years Jessica has shown tremendous dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion amongst her team, hiring multiple open members of the LGBTQ+ community who feel safety, warmth, and love with her as their supervisor.

Jessica also assists the Pasco County Animal Services Disaster Response team as head of Logistics. In 2022, PCAS was contacted by Best Friends Animal Society for a large-scale Animal Control project in Santa Rosa County, FL. This rural county in the panhandle of Florida was passionate but under resourced to handle a 60+ feral dog investigation. Jessica and two of her team members were able to assist the local Animal Control Officers and a local Veterinary partner with the safe trapping, capture, transport, and Spay/Neuter surgery of 55 feral dogs on the property. As a result, the community-based animal control effort was able to assist the citizen and provide safety and relief for the organization and the animals in need.

Jessica is a shining example of consistent leadership for both her team and her community and Pasco County Animal Services is proud to have her represent our organization every day.

Bill Lehman Memorial Award – Jacob Kamins (Corvallis, OR)

Since 2013, Jacob Kamins has served in a specialized role as the Animal Cruelty Deputy District Attorney for Oregon, based out of Benton County. This role was created after a noticeable number of heinous crimes against animals were going unprosecuted due to lack of resources and knowledge across the majority of our state’s District Attorney’s and Prosecutors. In crafting this role, Jacob was provided the ability to act as a special prosecutor on a statewide level and to be an incredible resource for all the professionals in our state, and he has taken this responsibility extremely seriously. He has never turned down the opportunity to instruct at our training conferences, is always amazing at getting relevant case law and updates out to our membership and makes himself available to all agencies in the state to assist and consult regularly. Since this role was filled by Jacob, many large-scale livestock and domestic animal neglect & abuse cases have been successfully prosecuted due to Jacob’s diligent work and the exceptional laws we have on the books are beginning to mean something and carry consequences like they always should have. Our state ACO/AWOs and all animal advocates cannot express our gratitude to Jacob enough for his dedication to this role, and animals in general.

Diane Lane Memorial Award –
Andy Heuer
(Davenport, IA)

Andy Heuer has been serving pets in a volunteer capacity for years in the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois. However, his involvement with our shelter and animal care and control increased drastically about a year and a half ago.

In April of 2021, the Humane Society of Scott County located in Davenport, IA underwent major management changes. As one of the directors of the shelter, I began improving our program offerings, beginning with fosters and volunteers. Andy was one of the first to sign up as a volunteer AND foster.

He regularly assists our Animal Protection Services officers in the field by setting and checking humane traps for particularly hard to catch dogs and cats and injured companion animals needing immediate help. He regularly volunteers his time after hours when our officers are unavailable.

 

Andy is one of the most known community members on local Lost and Found Facebook groups as well. Because of this, we asked if he would be interested in posting all stray animals in our building on a regular basis to increase return to owner rates. Andy began these posts in February of 2022. He volunteers at a minimum of once weekly to run PetPoint reports and provide the public with photos of the stray pets still in our care for that week. His posts have resulted in hundreds of shares on social media and dozens of pet reunifications.

Community members tag Andy in many lost pet cases on social media due to his continued help and presence in the animal community. They trust him to get the job done. He is a vital part of our mission to help animals in need by providing shelter, adoption services, and support resources for our community with care and compassion. When citizens are weary of formal law enforcement presence, Andy is there to assist in the transition and works to educate the community about our organization and the work our officers perform each day.

To top it all off, Andy fosters dogs when we are out of space in the shelter. He has even opened his home up permanently to a hospice dog with cancer recently.

It is hard to truly express the work he has done for this community both before becoming involved with our organization, and after his involvement. His heart lies with animals in need in our county and is a vital asset as a volunteer to our Animal Protection Services unit and the Humane Society of Scott County.

Outstanding Animal Care and Control Award – Stratford County Animal Control (Stratford, CT)

18 nominations

Stratford Animal Control Department go above and beyond for the animals they help. not only do they rescue the cats, dogs, etc.; but they have volunteers who sing to the animals and the ACOs take the animals on bicycle rides. Stratford Animal Control Department has personally saved two of our four dogs. They dedicate their time and resources to making sure they save these animals, but it goes beyond the face value. The ACOs at Stratford Animal Control truly care about all the animals and do everything they can to help them. A prime example is a recent story about 6 puppies they rescued and gave another shot at good lives (one of them being my puppy)!

 

Stratford Animal Control Department is unlike any other animal control department I have had the pleasure of speaking with. We adopted one of our dogs and a puppy from Stratford Animal Control Department and both times they proved time and again that they weren’t just looking to clear out the shelter. They were looking for the perfect fits for these animals. They take the time to make sure the animals are socialized by bringing them to events in the town and socializing them with other dogs in the shelter. They take the time to get training for animals that need extra time and love. They are one of a kind and make sure these animals have better lives!

These are the most caring, compassionate group of Animal Control Officers I know. The animals always come first and they go above and beyond to ensure the animals are always taken care of. The facility is immaculate and the animals are always first.

I am nominating Stratford Animal Control (SAC) for the Outstanding Animal Care and Control Agency of the Year Award because I feel it embodies the core values of the National Animal Care and Control Association.

SAC is a combination of employees and volunteers from a diversity of backgrounds, who all work together to serve the community. These individuals work tirelessly in a variety of tasks to support the shelter animals. From enrichment, to fundraising, SAC is constantly developing innovating ways to engage the animals as well as the community.

Each volunteer receives extensive training in their chosen specialty. They are also provided with continuing training as the shelter grows and advancements in animal handling and enrichment are made.

Each year, countless fundraising events are held, all of which benefit the animals. The largest of such events is currently the Spring Plant Sale, which had become an annual event for many to look forward to in the community. Other events include an Easter chocolate sale, a Holiday wreath sale, cocktail night at a local brewery, and numerous silent auctions of donated goods.

With the finds raised, SAC can ensure that each animal that is adopted has been spayed or neutered, micro chipped, tested for disease (heartworm, FIV/Felv), and given basic vaccinations. SAC is also able to provide extra medical care for those animals that need it. For example, this past year, SAC was able to provide extensive orthopedic history for an abandoned 6-month-old Husky with a fractured femur.

The driving force behind the hard work and dedication is the compassion that each person at SAC has. Every employee at SAC is a pet owner themselves. They are all extremely dedicated to the animals in the shelter, so much so that they often stay at the shelter though extreme weather events to ensure the animals are cared for.

SAC also strives to be an example of professionalism in the community. When encountering common animal and people issues, incidents are handled efficiently with public safety of the utmost importance. Officers are dedicated to educating pet owners, so they are equipped to function in a safe happy environment with their pets.

To educate volunteers and pet owners, SAC officers are constantly attending training themselves. They strive to educate themselves of the ever-developing innovations in the Animal Care and Control Field. The town does not provide funds for the officers’ training costs. They are passionate about it and fund it from their own pockets.

SAC strives to help make pet ownership accessible to those that seek it. Events are held throughout the year where adoption fee are waived to qualified adopters. SAC partners with local food banks to provide pet food to those in need.

Well known in the state of Connecticut, SAC assumes a leadership role amongst other Animal Control Agencies. Other agencies are comfortable seeking advice from SAC, and help is always offered when available. Mutual aid is often supplied when other agencies need space or resources

Stratford Animal Control is truly an outstanding agency and is a wonderful example of the integrity that should represent the National Animal Care and Control Association.

I am a recent dog handling volunteer at the Stratford Animal Control and I couldn’t be happier with my experience there. We were required to finish 24 hours of training on policy and procedures and hands on dog handling. We even had to pass a walk through test with the Animal Control Officer to demonstrate all we have learned. Every month we are required to attend continuing education with the dog trainer that comes to the facility.

The ACO’s go above and beyond for the care of the animals there. They have implemented an enrichment board for the dogs and cats in which each volunteer is required to use the enrichment tool picked for that day. For example, as a dog handler, we would use the food puzzles, snuffle matts, bubble machines and flirt poles. We take the dogs out for car rides and field trips for ice cream. They even have a room with a couch and TV in which we can take a dog or cat in to watch TV with them.

I absolutely love volunteering there and often I find I stay longer than my required time. I wish all animal shelters operated the way Stratford Animal Control does.

Outstanding State Association Award – Louisiana Animal Care and Control Association (LA)

The Louisiana Animal Care and Control Association has been conducting training for the state of Louisiana since 1979.

Over the years LACCA has continued to raise the level of training that they provide to Animal Control Officers and Kennel Personnel. This year LACCA made big steps moving forward and stepping out of their comfort zone (so to speak). LACCA board members decided to take the conference on the road and to host the conference in Alexandria, La. The conference has been held in Baton Rouge, La since 1979. Each year the President of LACCA (Chip Fitz) makes sure that we provide the best training and most up to date materials that are available. This year we were able to once again raise the standard of training in Louisiana by having Best friends come to our conference and teach about Community Engagement and Mitigating Nuisance Cats. We were also able to have NACA teach on several subjects that range from Officer Safety and Communication, Animal Basics and Sheltering, Situational Awareness, and Perception and Animal Handling. Having these two speakers at our annual conference was huge and made a great impact on our audience. Over the past couple of years LACCA has been able to present a training on Tools of the Trade, which is a certification in control pole use, bite stick, and pepper spray. Each year the LACCA board strives to provide the most current information and best, practical training for our fellow Animal Control/Shelter personnel. In the past years LACCA would focus on training for animal cruelty, case investigations, report writing etc. Now LACCA offers those courses along with raising the standards for sheltering by having a Shelter Veterinarian teach on proper vaccinations and treatments along with recognizing signs and symptoms of disease. With since the training started in 1979 LACCA has evolved to be one of the best Animal Control/Shelter training conferences within the tri state area. We strive to be the best and to offer the best training available on the State level.

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