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Old 03-06-2006
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Default IN - He’s two weeks old. His mother was abandoned. AWL saved

He’s two weeks old. His mother was abandoned. AWL saved him.

Mel Robertson
Lifestyle Editor/Reporter

Acting not as average dog catchers, local animal control officers work to help the community and animals maintain a safe place to live.

The Animal Welfare League of Montgomery County provides the only animal control in Montgomery County. While most issues with animals range from abandonment to harboring and running at large to neglect and cruelty, AWL supervising animal control officer Jason Miller and his partner, Jeff Threlkeld, take all calls to heart, investigating and helping as much as they can.

“Every call includes a knock on the door,” Miller said. “We want people to work with us and we don’t want to be mean.”

Harboring and running at large are the two most common problems the ACOs manage, Miller said. Animal control officers deal with situations, complaints and calls in a similar style to that of a police officer.

“A lot of people don’t know what we do as animal control officers,” Miller said.

Things have changed since Miller began his animal control career about two and a half years ago, he said. When he started at the AWL, not all calls and cases were handled correctly — or legally.

“When I started, there were no rules or regulations,” Miller said. “They were basically stealing animals.”

As National Animal Control Association certified animal control officers, Miller and Threlkeld take pride in their jobs of helping animals. Miller and Threlkeld have had more than 80 hours of training in animal control, covering all required fields from courtroom writing to defensive tactics.

“Jeff and I — we do it all by the book,” Miller said. “Something we’ve tried to do is build a relationship with the community through local, county and state (police) officers. We work with the health department regularly.”

Miller and Threlkeld spend part of their work days doing patrols of contracted areas in Montgomery County, including Crawfordsville and all incorporated towns except New Market. Animals found wearing tags are returned home or taken to the shelter if the owner is not home and kept until an owner can be reached. Animals not displaying tags are taken to the shelter where AWL staff hopes the animal is reclaimed or adopted.

“I’m in this job to help the animals — bottom line,” Miller said. “We at the shelter wouldn’t be doing this if that wasn’t it.”

On their days off, Miller and Threlkeld can be found checking on the animals left at the shelter.

“They still need food and water and to be taken care of, whether it’s a Sunday or a holiday,” Miller said.

The two ACOs take turns carrying a dispatch pager so at least one can be contacted at all times in case of an emergency. Vacations really aren’t an option, Miller said, because “The animals need care. You can’t really just take off.”

As a nonprofit organization, the AWL works diligently to increase adoption rates. Its main goal is to find a home for its animals.

“Euthanasia is an unfortunate part of our shelter,” Miller said, shaking his head. “But it doesn’t happen as often as people think. We don’t like to do it, but sometimes we have no choice.”

The shelter is suppose to work with a four-cage-empty policy, meaning four cages should be empty at all times.

“We have not kept with that policy because (the staff doesn’t) feel (the animals) should be euthanized if we have the available space for them,” said Miller, who also serves as shelter manager since the position was terminated in November because of budget cuts. “Sometimes we have dogs all over the place.”

“AWL euthanizes because it takes all animals, even those not fit for pets,” board member Candy Hodges said. “We take the sick, the hurt and the unfit pets.”

If a stray animal is found, the animal is taken to the shelter and placed in isolation for a number of days — depending on the age and temperament of the animal — to make sure the animal isn’t sick or doesn’t have behavioral problems. Vaccines are given and the temperament of the animal is observed by staff and the ACOs. After the time period is complete, the animal is placed in the general visitation area and up for adoption. If the animal shows signs of illness that cannot be treated or behavioral issues dangerous to others that cannot be changed, the animal is considered unadoptable.

“Sometimes they are just too far gone to help,” Miller said, referring to abused and injured animals the AWL finds. “We try to do everything we can for them, but sometimes there’s only a limited amount we can do.”

The shelter, 1104 Big Four Arch Road, Crawfordsville, is open for visitation noon-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. Animals may be dropped off 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.

For more information concerning the shelter or animals, call 362-8846 or e-mail Individuals can make monetary donations to the shelter by mailing a check payable to AWL of Montgomery County to P.O. Box 5, Crawfordsville, IN 47933.
-- A. Gianotto

R.I.P. Susan Caskey AKA "Critterfuz": April 1970 - Dec 2007.
R.I.P. Keegan Merrick AKA "RichmondACO": July 1977 - Jan 2009.

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