Animals

Animal services works to improve training, professionalism

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Juno Ogle Photo City of Roswell Animal Control Officer Gabriel Mauldin demonstrates how a ramp can be used to load and unload dogs from his truck Friday outside the Roswell Animal Services office. Ladders have been added as part of the department’s truck equipment, one of many ongoing changes that have been made to Animal Services.

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With a new supervisor in place, the Roswell Animal Services Department is working to bring a higher level of professionalism to its services, including training and certification of animal control officers.

Nicole Rogers, the animal services supervisor, said her goal with the department in addition to training is to update all of its policies and procedures. She began work on September 8, succeeding temporary supervisor, kennel manager Megan Telles.

“We will not only write it, we will live it,” Rogers said.

Rogers spends much of her time working on those policies and procedures with input from employees. She said it wasn’t a difficult task for her, because she did something similar in her previous job as a lieutenant in managing the overall operations of the Chaves County Detention Center for 12 and a half years.

She said the elbows are no different. She said animal control is like an animal prison, and there are also similarities in the public’s perception of employees.

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“The wardens get a bad reputation, they are not respected. They are kind of forgotten heroes because they are the ones who take care of the imprisoned individuals,” she said.

She said there is a similar perception of animal control officers, or ACOs.

“I’ve always noticed that animal control officers are the forgotten necessity,” she said.

Its goal, which matches that of Jim Burress, the city’s director of special services, who oversees animal services, is to raise the level of professionalism in animal control officers through training and certification.

It’s similar to a process Rogers said she went through in the county jail.

“When I started there, the prison wasn’t an approved facility, and we got there. So I came to animal control with this mindset, what can we do for best practices? What do we have to do for insurance purposes, liability purposes, and it starts with training,” Rogers said.

Staff just started this training through the National Animal Care and Control Association. The organization was formed in 1978 by animal control officials from 24 states.

Certificate courses cost $447, according to the NACA website. The certification is valid for three years and in order to re-certify, the officer must complete 10 continuing education credits each of those three years.

Nearly all training is taking place due to the pandemic, but Rogers said she also hopes to get personal training opportunities for ACOs in the future.

But just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s easy, Burse said. The training includes 96 topics in 21 lessons. In order to move from one lesson to another, the officer must have a score of 85% on the test. Then there is a final exam that is passed with a score of 80% or better. After passing this, the officer will be certified as an ACO 1, with two other levels of certification available.

The difference in testimony, for both the public and the officers, said Boers, is the perception of being a dog hunter versus being a public security officer.

The mentality, it was always ‘I’m fond of dogs,’ that’s it. “No, this may be part of your job, but this is not your real job.” “Your real job is public safety, understanding, education, training, and being out in public knowing that people can talk to you.”

Training includes topics such as professionalism and ethics, responding to animal abuse, handling dangerous dogs, handling animals, investigation techniques, search warrants, public relations, first aid and more.

Boers said animal control officers also worked with city attorneys and a municipal court judge to conduct show trials in many of the cases so they could know what kind of information they would need to provide when they went to court. They also recently received updated ticket books that now match the city’s modified animal codes.

Rogers said she was already looking for an approved training program in October when a video of Roswell ACO raising a dog with a fishing pole circulated on social media. The shaft has a snare that wraps around the animal’s neck. The video clip showed the DEA lifting a large dog into the back of an animal services pickup truck with the shaft.

“It revealed some of the things we’re lacking,” Rogers said.

Her immediate response to the video was to provide the trucks with collapsible ramps that officers could use to load and unload the animals.

“His ramp officer would go out and do everything he could, in a good faith effort, to get the dog across the ramp into the cage. To me, that was a very quick and doable option.”

Rogers said ramps and other purchases such as gloves to protect against dog bites are a safety measure.

“My priority is the safety of the animal control officers. If we didn’t have them in good health, we wouldn’t have anyone doing the job,” she said.

“We bought different types of equipment that they didn’t have just to help the officers get the job done as safely as possible for himself or herself,” she said.

Better trained animal control officers will in turn lead to a better educated audience, Rogers said, and the administration will do more soon.

She said Roswell’s problems with animals were not caused by animals.

“There is a problem that people have with their animals, the responsibility of owning and caring for an animal,” she said.

The department is working with the city’s Department of Public Affairs to prepare educational posts for its Facebook page to teach the public about the city’s animal laws, how to report animal complaints or information at any free or low-cost clinics.

The most important thing Rogers said she would like the public to know about animal services is that every member of the crew is compassionate towards animals.

“I quickly learned how much the staff really love and care about these animals. Their heart hurts when they see them in pain. They are affected by these animals,” she said.

“They interact with them as much as they can. They really love animals. It was very comforting to know. I am very grateful to them,” she said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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