Wednesday, December 16, 2009

“Animal Control Officer”: a varied job

Earlier this fall, Chris Buck, Animal Control Officer in Lawrence Township, NJ, talked about what her job includes. Don’t take her job title literally to describe what she does because that's far from all she’s ready and responsible for.

Buck says “as a kid, she was always into animals,” and for a while, she wanted to be a veterinarian. A friend who had held this job made it sound so good, Buck took the course and became ACO-certified – then when the position opened, she was ready and she got it, starting in on the 21 years she’s now served.

One of her duties is to inspect township kennels and pet shops. She also deals with wildlife calls – for instance, a sick fox with mange; advice on ground hogs; animals, including a snake, in someone’s house.

Buck enforces Lawrence licensing requirements and handles stray animals, taking dogs and cats to the Trenton Animal Shelter and “exotics” to people in the area who handle them.

Rabies cases and bites fall under her purview as well, as do any violations of township ordinances pertaining to animals. As a certified animal cruelty investigator, she can issue violations and with police help, arrest.

Twice a year, she coordinates the clinic for free rabies shots for dogs and cats in town. Her job also entails the regular Lawrence animal census and gives her numerous opportunities to make suggestions and educate residents.

During her work day, Buck uses the ACO truck, fitted out to deal with whatever she may encounter. Her equipment includes noose poles, nets, leashes, gloves, treats and toys, as well as two stretchers for sick or injured animals. There’s heat and air conditioning in the back for animals in transit.

Buck takes courses whenever she can, which is why she’s also certified for cruelty investigations, CPR and First Aid. Treasurer of the Princeton Dog Training Club, she also takes classes through that organization, and she teaches dog obedience through the Adult School in Hamilton Township, where she lives.

Not surprisingly at all, Buck’s family includes four Dalmatians -- Slide, nearly 13; Flash, almost 12; Noah, 10; and Lazer, 2. There’s also Riot, a Great Dane who will be a year old on New Year’s day. Two cats, Kodi and Kaluha, are in the family picture too.

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