• By Elizabeth Cecil and Brad Adams

Guest Opinion, Being an animal control officer...

April 7-13 is National Animal Control Appreciation Week. Being an animal control officer (ACO) is not all about petting and hugging animals, although that is a really awesome part of our job. Officers must be quick thinkers, problem solvers, and good communicators to reduce potentially dangerous situations while on an investigation, when witnessing animals in pain or suffering, and/or occasionally, when exposed to a dying animal or a severely neglected animal resulting in death. We must be on our guard at all times and know how to react to a situation, as things may unexpectedly occur while on a cruelty investigation – making sure our emotions never cross the lines of the law we have sworn to enforce. It is important that every decision made is the right one. A wrong decision could result in danger for all involved, including the animal and ourselves. Our personal life becomes affected at times due to being on-call for after-hour emergencies. Oftentimes, dinner with family, an evening movie at home, or a peaceful night’s sleep is interrupted. Some spouses or partners may not cope with the void to well, bringing tension into the relationship. Family and friends may become frustrated with an ACO’s silence, because we avoid sharing information when we come home from our shift or after-hour emergency. It’s not because we don’t love them enough to share our day, in fact, it is the opposite. Instead, we try to shelter our family from the images in our minds we wish could be forgotten. But then again, those very images are a simple reminder as to why we keep doing our job, knowing there are more animals in similar situations that will need our help – like a horse in a starved skeletal condition hidden inside a barn, a host of dogs locked in small cages over a hillside in a disgusting puppy mill, or an animal found beaten or severely emaciated from starvation. All of it becomes sketched into our memories for a lifetime. Being an ACO isn’t about arriving at an investigation and removing every animal in sight because the animals aren’t living the way their own animals live at home. The law is the law and our emotions cannot override it. The ACO may end up being scrutinized by the social media community, known as keyboard warriors, who simply don’t understand why certain actions can’t be taken, regardless of the explanation as to why causing additional anguish to the ACO. ACOs may never feel they receive a mental break from all the pain, suffering, death, or angry animal owners and bystanders who lash out with threats and explicit language. Our ability to convey quality humane education is often the key to helping people become more responsible pet owners. It’s only when education fails with a pet owner that court action becomes the next step. A very well-prepared case, which is built through excellent report writing, evidence, and good verbal testimony, will be presented to a judge and maybe a jury, too. Our every word of testimony will be challenged and questioned by the defense in hopes to make us fail at what we do best. Being an animal control officer is being an enforcer, a protector, an educator, and most of all, compassionate. … Elizabeth Cecil is a Woodford County ACO; her co-author, Brad Adams, is an Ohio ACO.

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