GREAT FALLS — Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week runs from April 11 to April 17 around the country, but what’s it like to be an officer in north-central Montana?
"From day to day, our job as an animal control officer is we patrol the streets. What we’re trying to do is we’re looking for lost pets, investigate animal bites, do wellness checks on animals. Gosh, there’s so many things we do,” said Great Falls Animal Control Officer Alisa Ethridge.
Ethridge has been an animal control officer for nine years and she says her job is not to write citations but to help her community.
“You know, it’s not just take the animal to the shelter and leave it in their care. If we get the opportunity to talk to the owner, we do that. A lot of our job is education and we don't always write citations. If it’s an opportunity to educate the public, we take that opportunity,” she said.
Ethridge has two other officers working with her every day and a third on the way to training, but that isn’t the case for all officers. In smaller communities like Havre and Cut Bank, some animal control officers have numerous responsibilities, including parking enforcement and operations of animal shelters.
“Combining all of those, I spend a lot of time outside of the shelter which makes it difficult for people that are wanting to visit animals. So some days it’s stressful just because of all of the different complaints of the functions that I do. It’s the love of the animals, just dealing with the animals, that makes it all worth it," explained Peter Federspiel, an animal control officer in Havre.
The love of the animals keeps officers going, but they could always use a hand. Officer Joe Gauthier in Cut Bank wants to remind the community that animals are more than pets - they’re family: “It’s like a child, you protect your children. You should protect your animals also.”
Animal control officers say the best way you can show appreciation year-round is to pick up the phone - the Number one issue they face is people waiting too long to report a problem, according to Ethridge.
WEB EXTRA - ACO Ethridge explains an interesting call she responded to involving peacocks:
WEB EXTRA - ACO Ethridge demonstrates some of the tools that she and her fellow ACOs use: