Animal control volunteer steps forward

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

A new animal control officer means police can redirect their energies toward other issues, according to Williston’s police chief.

Chief Jim Dimmick said Williston resident Sue Powers has volunteered to respond to animal concerns in town starting this week.

Every town handles animal control differently, Dimmick said: Some towns have a paid animal control officer, while other towns require the town constable to do the job. In Williston, the responsibility had fallen to police officers. Dimmick said that seemed strange to him.

“They’re not trained in any specialized way to deal with the animals,” Dimmick said, nor do they have the right equipment.

Responding to animal concerns takes time. In the last 22 months, Williston police officers have responded to 177 animal control calls, from dog bites to wandering animals. Last week, for example, Dimmick said a blind dog was wandering in the middle of North Williston Road.

“I just thought that (police) expertise is better served other places,” Dimmick said.

Residents still should call the police department with their concerns or complaints; the police in turn will page Powers.

Powers is a long-time animal rescuer, she said, and has taken seminars on cruelty investigations and wildlife rehabilitation. Her expertise is responding to domestic animals, but she also has some experience with farm animals.

“Because I’ve been involved in this field for over 25 years, I have a really large network,” Powers said by phone. A cat meowed and birds chirped in the background as Powers explained that even if she doesn’t have the expertise needed for a specific situation, she knows others who do.

Powers’ passion for rescue has ebbed into her home. All of the birds chatting in the background were rescued, she said, and include parakeets, finches, a dove, a cockatiel, and a lory parrot. She and her husband also foster a number of dogs and cats at any given time while searching for an adoptive family.

“Her heart is just totally into not only how do we take care of this issue in town, but also humanely,” Dimmick said.

Police will still respond to ordinance violations, Dimmick said, as well as any issues that arise when Powers is not available. Dimmick said he hopes the town will find a way to compensate Powers for her time.