An Open Letter to Animal Control Officers
I never obtained my animal control license; however, I have been in animal welfare and TNR for 25 years now. I have worked with countless shelters in various municipalities for decades. At this point I no longer understand animal control officers.
I would assume that most current ACOs went into this field because they love animals and feel obligated to prevent as much homelessness and suffering as possible. However, sometime after that decision, the mission seems to have been abandoned. Part of stopping the flood of incoming homeless animals is to be willing to stand up and fight for them . Going to work and simply taking care of the calls you are assigned and caring for the select few animals that you have chosen to admit to the shelter is not solving the problem or even being remotely part of the solution.
I have tried over the years to work with multiple towns and in every single case it has ended in a similar way.
Despite spending in some cases over $80,000 per year on a single town's TNR while providing thousands of hours of free labor, the one thing I requested would not be accommodated.
Many people who opt to feed cats will actually refuse to spay/neuter. They will deny access to property or literally hide the cats. They will sneak feed to thwart anyone else's attempts to fix the population.
With the current laws and most local ordinances, it would be easy to deal with this behavior. During my work, there was no additional legislation needed to address this, yet towns refused to enforce the existing ordinances and even state law, allowing colonies to breed in neighborhoods without consequence to the feeder. Round and round we would go with the same feeders creating more and more cats every single year.
In every case, I eventually had to jump off the merry-go-round as it was clear that I had no support as a nonprofit despite having invested incredible amounts of time fundraising, trapping, transporting, and arranging surgeries. It became clear that the municipalities were looking for a free "feel good" Band-Aid, pretending to invest in TNR without pursuing a real multifaceted solution.
At least once per week I see animal control officers or "friends of" various animal control groups posting on social media. I see the posts seeking donations, asking for help or announcing what a great job they are doing.
Here's the problem--I see them on the same social media I am using. I know they see the same posts of animal neglect, cats breeding and denial of medical care to sick and injured cats. They see the posts pleading for rescues to take cats just as I do. They know that when legitimate rescues are full, the cats will either go to people without the resources to care for them or be left to breed, suffer and die on the streets, and the end will be painful and slow.
So Animal Control Officers of New Jersey, here are my questions:
With all you see and all you know, why are you not fighting?
Why are you not standing up to municipalities and saying we are underfunded, undertrained and do not have the space to accommodate intake?
Why are you scrolling past acts of cruelty and neglect in your own town and not pursuing them, or advising people of proper protocol for reporting animal cruelty, injury, or illness?
Why are you telling residents you have waiting lists, no room for owner surrenders, and no way to assist with TNR?
Why have you chosen to avoid euthanasia and unpopularity, knowing that the cost of not upsetting people is that the same animals will die slow, painful deaths on the street?
Above all, when did you stop advocating for animals and become part of the problem?