Archive - Jan 13, 2013

Further Thinking about Animal Control

Thursday, I wrote about blog post, Concerning the Livestock Taken from Woodbridge Animal Control. Friday morning, as I was driving to my cousin's funeral, I spoke briefly with our First Selectman about some of the issues.

My cousin worked with animal rescue and with service animals. Her dog, Lucky, a silver labrador was trained as a service animal and my cousin's friends are busy arranging a proper service opportunity for Lucky. Lucky attended the wake and one of my cousin's friends brought a chihuahua to the funeral.

When I arrived back home, I learned that my blog post had been printed out and passed around at the police commission hearing in Woodbridge while I was up at the funeral in Massachusetts.

Saturday morning, the New Haven Register had a follow up article, Woodbridge livestock issues remain unresolved.

The article said,

Police Sgt. Ed Thomas, who has been assigned to oversee the shelter, said dealing with the animal control officers was challenging….

Woodbridge police said they felt animal control officers would show “resistance” if asked to move the livestock.

This leads me back to my hypothesis from my previous blog post, that something other than the best interests of the animals and the town is what motivated the action by the police. If the challenges of dealing with the animal control officers is too much for Sgt. Thomas, than he should receive proper training, or be replaced with someone who is capable of dealing with animal control officers. It is particularly concerning if police officers act unilaterally, disregarding the recommendations of the experts they are supposed to be working with. It should be a grave concern to all the citizens of Woodbridge if police officers are being asked to perform tasks that are too challenging for them.

Yet there are bigger issues. I've been following animal control topics for several years on my blog. An underlying concern is the role of animal control. In Connecticut, animal control is typically under the auspices of the local police departments. The goal of animal control is often to protect humans from animals with little to no concern about the welfare of the animals. This results in many conflicts between animal rescuers, animal control officers, and the police departments they work in.

My understanding of Connecticut State Law is that dogs, if not all animals, must be held for seven days if they are picked up and the owner does not claim them. This provides an opportunity for the owner to claim the animals, as well as an opportunity to make sure the animals are not carrying any diseases. What happens after that is up to the different municipalities. Some municipalities have made it a practice to euthanize the animals once the seven days are up. A few years ago, Derby had the highest kill rate of any municipality in Connecticut. All of this is perfectly legal if animals are seen simply as a nuisance to be dealt with.

Yet animals also serve as pets, companions and service animals. My cousin's dog Lucky is about to take a new job helping his next charge and there are wonderful stories about therapy dogs and therapy miniature horses coming to aid the people of Sandy Hook.

This brings us to another issue in thinking about animal control. Connecticut law appears to have special considerations for cats and dogs as pets, but not other animals. What happens when a miniature horse or donkey is a pet? What about a pygmy goat or a pot bellied pig? How do we handle service animals, like the miniature horses that came help the people of Sandy Hook.

We need to stop thinking of animals as simply nuisances that the police department needs to control and more as part of the fabric of our lives. Laws and policies need to be rethought as should the reporting structure of animal control.

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