I had a great opportunity to spend a day learning about another important function within the Ontario SPCA when I went on the road with Andrew, one of our animal control officers. Since my first ride along was spent with an animal cruelty agent, I was looking forward to seeing how both roles differ.
Animal control officers are designated as provincial offence officers, who investigate and enforce noise by-laws, trespassing and dog-at-large laws. They also deal with domestic animals who are roaming freely, aggressive animals, injured wildlife, and they work with the owners of domestic animals on by-law compliance. If compliance does not take place, fines can be issued.
Our first call of the day was a home owner who had a stray on his property which he safely sheltered in his garage. We went to pick up the dog, a big friendly black shepherd mix, and brought him back to the shelter where he was checked over to ensure he was in good health.
While this was occurring, we also received another call about a missing dog. Based on the general location and description of the dog, it sounded as though this was the shepherd we had just picked up, so we contacted the owner to advise him that his dog was at the shelter.
Each ‘call’ is documented, and our records indicated this was actually the fourth time the dog had been picked up for roaming freely. While local city by-laws can vary slightly, most municipalities require that dogs be leashed and not roam onto other properties. In such cases, fees are charged for the impounding of the animal. For this particular owner, there will likely be a fine levied given that there have been a couple of past conversations expressing the owner’s responsibility and obligation to obey by-laws.
Animal control officers are not “dog catchers,” and their role is not nearly as simple as picking up strays. They educate owners on local by-laws, on the Dog Owner Liability Act and on responsible animal ownership. They also deal with wildlife that has been injured or is in distress and help determine whether rehab is possible.
Andrew told me about being called out to retrieve a nest of orphaned baby raccoons to get them to wildlife rehab in order for them to survive. After hearing that particular story, my mind continually goes to my daily drive to work and seeing animals on the side of the road. I’d never considered that those animals could have offspring waiting to be fed or cared for. It tugs on my heart more so now.
Raccoons, geese, skunks, porcupines, squirrels, coyotes, foxes, birds of all kinds – Ontario SPCA animal control agents are involved in the welfare of these animals and do their very best to help them.
That work is not solely done by the agents in the field. I got to witness one of our amazing dispatchers Maureen on the job. Her role is just as important as she fields phone calls to the agents, and much like them, does her best to educate, inform and advise on what can be done to deal with each caller’s situation.
Andrew shared another story with me about a time he was called to an apartment building where a squirrel had managed to lodge his head between the bars on a balcony. Andrew suited up and gently freed the squirrel. For me that was another example of the great work done by Animal Control and of everyone I’ve met at the Ontario SPCA so far.
The animals come first. It isn’t a slogan or brand; it’s just how everybody here feels. Big. Small. Friendly. Not. The animals and their welfare are at the forefront of everyone at the Ontario SPCA, and I don’t mind telling you I’m pretty proud to have joined this organization. I hope you will join me in supporting it.
Stay tuned for Part II of the Animal Rescue Insider series.
Through its province-wide network of 50 plus Communities, the Ontario SPCA is one of the largest, most responsive animal welfare organizations in the country, providing care and shelter for tens of thousands of animals every year.
Photo Credits: Ontario SPCA
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