Compassion is part of county Animal Control

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, March 9, 2016

There is more to Lunenburg County Animal Control than catching animals.

Just talk to D. Ray Elliott, the county’s animal control officer.

The job, he said, is about compassion.

For the animals they have to pick up:

“The animals are suffering from our neglect, not theirs,” he notes.

And for the people they come in contact with — because it’s not just cruelly treated animals, but people in bad circumstances.

“It’s not just about picking up a stray dog or stray cat,” he said. “People want to vent; give them a shoulder to cry on.”

Elliott outlined the job to the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors during their early February meeting. He wanted them to understand his job and some of what goes into it, and with it.

“A lot of people don’t see what we see,” he said. “We want the public to know we do everything we can do (there.)”

Part of what Elliott wants is to educate the public, including, when possible, going door-to-door.

On Saturday, March 26, Lunenburg County Animal Control will be part of a rabies clinic from 9 a.m. until noon at the Lunenburg County Animal Hospital.

The shelter has a Facebook page, where there are post reminding people to take care of their pets in cold weather.

There are also promotions of the Houses for Hounds Campaign.

“Do you, or someone you know, have dog houses that are not being used?” the post asks. “Lunenburg County Animal Control is currently seeking gently used dog houses that we can pass along to others in need of adequate shelter for their pets.”

It could make all the difference for pets in need of a warm, dry place to take shelter, the post continues.

The shelter promotes contributions to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Facebook page reminding visitors that, “The county gladly partners with the Southside SPCA to spay and neuter all pets to avoid overpopulation.”

The shelter brought in $4,500 in fees to the county throw fees for owner surrender, impoundment fees and adoption — money that ends up going to purchases supplies such as food, cages and crates. The purchase of dog tags has grown yearly — from 951, to 1,057 to 1,751 last year.

Elliott, and Noyse E. King, deputy animal control officer,  have put over 50,000 miles on their vehicle since 2014 — checking on not just dogs and cats, but pigs, goats and, occasionally, opossums, Elliott said.

On the busiest day he remembers, they had 13 calls and drove 220 miles, Elliott said. And that day — like every other — included cleaning the shelter.

Last year, they went out on 650 welfare checks.

They picked up a total of 527 animals last year; 395 dogs went through the shelter last year — of those, 300 found homes, Elliott said.

The state says dogs should be held 7-10 days. But because the shelter received over four tons of donated dog food, they were able to hold dogs longer, and that gave them time to save more dogs by finding them homes or being able to send them to a no-kill shelter. Putting an animal down is the hardest part of the job.

“The public doesn’t realize that’s what we see,” he said. “We wear the burden for the county. We get attached to some of them, and then you have to put them down. It’s part of the job.”

So any time it can be avoided, Elliott said, “It’s a win-win situation for us. When you can save (just) one, that helps.”