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The wild world of animal control
By Rachel Brant
Four horses galloped through the streets of North Kitsap, oblivious to their surroundings.
But Kitsap Animal Rescue and Enforcement officers, armed with buckets of grain, arrived on the scene and safely lured the animals back home.
Chief Rance McEntyre leads a small group of seven Kitsap Animal Rescue and Enforcement officers who protect and care for thousands of unwanted and abused animals every year. Officers perform a wide range of services including picking up stray cats and dogs to investigating animal cruelty cases.
We get everything from ferrets and guinea pigs to emus, said Kitsap Animal Control/Humane Officer Jody Rosenblad. We handle every kind of domestic animal.
Kitsap Animal Rescue and Enforcement officers begin their day at 8:30 a.m. and run into all kinds of creatures throughout their eight-hour workday.
Rosenblad has been an animal control/humane officer for five years and loves her job. She spent 17 years with Washington State Patrol in the commercial vehicle division and worked at an equine veterinarians office before joining Kitsap Animal Rescue and Enforcement. Rosenblad stumbled across an advertisement in a newspaper and decided to apply for the job.
It was purely a whim, I wasnt looking for a job, I just stumbled across the ad, she said. It combines my love of animals with the investigative stuff I really enjoy.
Kitsap Animal Rescue and Enforcement officers must attend the Washington Animal Control Officer Academy at the Criminal Justice Training Center in Burien, Wash. within their first year on the job. The officers also receive numerous hours of on-the-job training before tackling the night shift.
Generally we try not to throw super new people to the wolves right off the bat, Rosenblad said with a smile.
The seven Kitsap animal control/humane officers rotate a pager and tackle the nighttime shift. Animal control only responds to emergencies at night, according to their contract with the county. The officers also share the responsibility of dispatcher by taking turns staying in their Kitsap Humane Society office and manning the radio.
Responding to complaints
Rosenblad and her fellow animal control/humane officers begin their day with a stack of complaints that need to be addressed. Rosenblad left the Silverdale office Tuesday, Oct. 30 and headed to McWilliams Road in Bremerton to pick up a stray cat that had been found and captured by a homeowner.
Rosenblad arrived and found a cardboard box, ladened with air holes, sitting on the apartments front stoop. She carefully carried the box to the Kitsap Animal Control van, opened it and discovered the cat had chewed or clawed its way out of the box and escaped.
Sometimes they turn out to be really sweet and sometimes its oh my goodness, howd you get it in that box, Rosenblad said.
She returned the box, recorded the time and details of her first stop and headed out to retrieve an empty feral cat trap set in front of a persons apartment on Sixth Street in Bremerton.
Throughout the day, Rosenblad searched for two dogs running loose in a Seabeck neighborhood, checked on an animal cruelty complaint regarding horses living in unhealthy conditions, dropped off paperwork to a complainant and gave tips on how to prevent pets from escaping and running loose in neighborhoods and streets.
Rosenblad said it can be difficult navigating the streets of Kitsap County at times, but every officer carries a map and some use GPS to find their destinations.
This is really hard at night, so its really frustrating, Rosenblad said. Ive got penciled-in roads on this map like you wouldnt believe.
Once Rosenblad addressed her stack of complaint papers, Officer Ben Duenas called over the radio that the South Kitsap Animal Land Zoo in Port Orchard had received several complaints regarding animals escaping and unhealthy living conditions.
Kitsap Animal Rescue and Enforcement officers have spoken to Joe Cook, owner of the South Kitsap Animal Land Zoo, in the past regarding the care of his rabbits, birds and goats. Rosenblad told Cook his animals needed better shelter, food and water supplies.
All domestic animals need to have appropriate shelter, Rosenblad told Cook. Theyre drinking their own fecal matter and that just doesnt cut the mustard.
Rosenblad said Cook had cleaned up the zoo a little since her last visit, but more still needed to be done. She planned to come back to the South Kitsap Animal Land Zoo in a week to see if Cook made the appropriate changes.
Just like regular law enforcement, officer presence alone can fix a problem at a lot of these places, she said. I can be compassionate to a point, but my No. 1 responsibility is to the animals.
Rosenblad said she never gets used to investigating animal cruelty cases, but most of the time she is able to get an animal owner to step back and look at the animal like its somebody elses and they begin to better care for their pet.
Its always nice to be able to get in early enough to do something that can change the outcome for the animal, Rosenblad said. Probably 50 percent of our job is to educate people.
Animal control/humane officers do go to court to testify against animal owners. Although it is fulfilling to have an animal owner convicted of cruelty, it is difficult to witness the cruelty, according to Rosenblad.
Theyre very satisfying when you do prosecute a case and get a conviction, but they do take a toll on you, she said. You dont get used to it, you learn ways to cope with it.
Not all animal cruelty cases end with a conviction, but Rosenblad said every case is a learning experience.
You pick up and you go back and work your next case a little differently, Rosenblad said. It all makes it so your next case is a little bit better, a little bit sharper.
Although fall and winter are slow seasons, Kitsap Animal Rescue and Enforcement officers stay busy rounding up dogs, cats, horses, ball pythons and even emus. Summer is the departments busiest time of year because people and animals are outside more frequently, allowing more opportunities for pets to stray from their owners. Rosenblad worked South Kitsap, the busiest section of the county, for a few years before working mostly Central Kitsap and Bremerton.
Id rather be running from call to call than just cruising around, Rosenblad said.
Rosenblad, an animal owner and pet lover herself, said owning an animal is a long-term commitment and owners should take good care of their furry, feathery, slimy or scaly pets.
Its a long-term commitment, she said. Ive never been one to think of animals as disposable.