Animal Control officers provide services
by By Sue Little
May 19, 2013 | 951 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For 21 years Roy Womack has been serving Cleveland and Bradley County as an animal control officer. He and a sparse staff serve the sprawling area in their jurisdictions, responding to several thousand widely varied calls for help annually.

Other staffers are Gene Smith, shelter director; Jennifer Rogers, secretary; and officers David Creasman, Thomas Bell, John Bivens, Hugh Thigpen, Heath Bladson and Allen Johnson, currently absent due to National Guard duties.

"I have seen a lot of changes since I began, " Roy noted. "When I was first hired the shelter was located at the city dump. The late Earnest Brown was shelter director, Don Gibson, now retired, and Gene Smith were the only officer drivers and I was the only kennel officer. We could pick up animals only within the city limits but there was a service charge of $5 for us to pick up in the county. We got many county calls.

We continue getting far more county calls for help than those from within the city. Then, in 1995 came a new development when the animal shelter was relocated to 360 Hill St., off Inman Street. At that time this was a big improvement over the former location by the city dump," said the caring officer, who responds "to anywhere from 15 to 18 calls for help daily. "Right now," he said, as we talked, "I have three messages from the city dispatcher about dogs running-at-large around the Lee University area. Both city and county law require that dogs be confined to their property. Cats in the city must also be confined to their property although the county does not have this requirement."

Citing other unusual calls, Roy told of "a call I got last week about ducks and and their babies attempting to cross Jordan Rd. to get to a stream. I was asked to briefly halt traffic which I did to let the duck families safely cross that busy roadway."

Numerous calls arrive "about dogs getting into garbage. Lots of welfare calls also get our immediate attention," he said. "We will see dogs on a chain with no dog house for shelter. Some people will say, 'Oh, he/she can get under the porch for shelter' or 'under the car.' "Others will say, 'Oh, he/she can get on the porch or in the house.' We can determine the truth most of the time by the condition of the ground where the dog is confined.

"For the past few years we have had a very generous donor who we can call about any dog house needs. We just let this donor the know the size of the house needed and he will go buy the needy dog a house for us to give free to the owner. He wants to remain anonymous." (Anyone wanting to donate a dog house can call Animal Control at 479-2122.)

"At this time of year we will get many calls about dogs being left in cars while owners are running errands. The interior of a car will heat up to deadly temperatures for the pet in seconds. When we rush to such cases the owner is fined for neglect," he explained, adding that "This is a cruel situation. Dogs should never be left in cars in spring or summer or during any warm weather even with windows rolled down!"

"Bite dogs" are also a major concern for animal control officers. "Especially now with school being over we typically get calls about children who probably run up to dogs and then get bitten. In all cases the bite dog must be quarantined at home for l0 days and we check to make sure that is done. We're in contact with the Health Dept. We make sure the rabies vaccination is up-to-date. If this is not confirmed the owner receives a citation and will have to appear in court and go before the judge and likely receive a fine. Getting dogs rabies vaccinations in a timely manner is of major, life-saving importance," he emphasized.

An example of the host of unusual cases that animal control officers receive was "a call a few years ago about a wandering monkey discovered by motorcyclists by a busy roadway.

The monkey was quarantined at the local shelter. Eventually he went to the Atlanta Zoo," Roy said. "We would give him apples and he wouldn't eat them but if anybody tried to get them out of his kennel he would scream and carry on."

"We get calls about snakes. We've had a call about an armadillo, and armadillos are on the increase in Tennessee, coming up here from Georgia, we hear," said Roy. The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency should be contacted to deal with wildlife problems," he said. "If you see a dead animal lying in or alongside a road in the city limits, call 472-2851 or in the county, call 728-7006," he advised.

If Roy, a longtime animal control officer, had one wish that he could ask of all pet owners, what it would be? He quickly responded: "Please have all of your pets spayed and neutered, and please have identification tags on their collars and have them microchipped! That way, if they come into the shelter as lost pets we can call you in an instant to come and get them back home, much to their relief, and to ours, too!"

Paws up this week to: Dr. John Owens; Dale Edwards; Lynn and Terry Gobble;

Sandie Turner; Lois Crawford; Carla Boudrot; and all who adopted a shelter pet with the assurance of providing a long, wonderful life.

To reach the shelter, call 479-2122.

Call me with your pet and wildlife stories, 728-5414, or write to: P.O. Box 4864, Cleveland TN 37320.