Archive for Monday, September 5, 2011

Animal control officers are advocates for pets

Lawrence Animal Control officer Linda Durkes, works with a Husky until the owner produces its papers on shots. The dog reputedly jumps fences and the neighbors complain.

Lawrence Animal Control officer Linda Durkes, works with a Husky until the owner produces its papers on shots. The dog reputedly jumps fences and the neighbors complain.

September 5, 2011


Lawrence Animal Control

Linda Durkes, one of two Animal Control officers for the city of Lawrence talks about a days work and how the animal control officers have a big concern for the welfare of animals in Lawrence. Enlarge video

Pet ordinances

City of Lawrence animal control officers are tasked with enforcing city ordinances. Here’s a look at some of those ordinances:

• Owners cannot leave animals in vehicles for more than five minutes if the temperature is above 80 degrees or below 30 degrees.

• Animals cannot be left outside on a leash for more than one hour, and there must be at least three hours before the animal can be let outside again.

• Owners cannot have more than five dogs more than 10 weeks old on the same property.

• Dogs, cats and ferrets, older than four months, must be vaccinated.

• No domesticated animals are allowed to roam “at-large” in the city, except at designated dog parks.

• Fines for the above offenses range from $10 to $500, depending on the violation and number of offenses. Impounding fees are also imposed if an animal is taken to the Lawrence Humane Society.

About 4 p.m. on a recent weekday, animal control officer Linda Durkes stops at a home in North Lawrence where earlier she’d noticed a pit bull chained up outside with little water. She’s back, to see how long the dog has been left outside.

As Durkes visits with the dog, she gets a less-than-polite welcome from the animal’s owner, who storms out of a home across the street.

“You got a problem with my (expletive) dog?” yells the owner, who has a tough-guy look, complete with shaved head and numerous tattoos.

The owner grabs the dog, slings it over his shoulder and throws it inside the home.

Then he comes back to berate Durkes some more.

But in just a couple of minutes, the owner has calmed down, as Durkes explains the city ordinance he was violating: that dogs can be chained up for only an hour at a time and need adequate water. No ticket this time, but Durkes will return on another day to check on the dog.

To an outsider, the encounter looked pretty intense. But it’s all in a day’s work, Durkes explains.

“That’s not as bad as some of them,” says Durkes, aware that for many pet owners, the presence of an animal control officer is not good news.

“They’re just angry. They need somebody to be angry with.”

Seven days a week, Durkes and other animal control officers patrol Lawrence, enforcing city ordinances regarding domesticated animals: mostly dogs, sometimes cats, and occasionally rabbits, Durkes says.

The animal control office — a division of the Lawrence Police Department — also handles dispatch calls from area residents, often related to stray or vicious animals and dog bites. Oftentimes it’s simply a matter of education about city ordinances. But other times it’s for an adventurous canine sneaking out for a run — what the city refers to as an “animal at-large.”

Working two shifts throughout the day, the animal control officers keep busy, responding to calls from dispatchers.

In 2010 and 2011, the officers averaged 10 calls a day. In about 20 percent of those calls, officers confiscated an animal and took it to the Lawrence Humane Society shelter.

Durkes, in the large van with simple letters on the side that read “Animal Control,” shows off some of the tools of the trade. Several long poles with different contraptions sit in the seat next to her. They’re “snappy snares,” she explains, and are used to help safely catch wayward dogs. There’s also the thermometer they use to check the temperature in cars when someone calls about an animal left unattended in the heat.

It’s a fun job that keeps you on your toes, Durkes says.

During a two-hour ride-along with the Journal-World, Durkes dealt with the unruly dog owner, checked on traps to catch some stray cats, wrote a citation because two dogs sneaked away from their owner’s backyard, and followed up on a dog bite. On occasion, the officers are the ones who are bitten.

While the officers in the big van are not always welcome, Durkes says their role is that of animal advocate.

Durkes has three dogs, one of which she met on a routine neglect call.

“I’m an animal lover,” Durkes says.


Alceste 6 years, 5 months ago

The fools in this town don't understand that cats cannot roam about freely. Cats are also subject to the leash law. Keep your cats in your house or your yard and out of your neighbors. They will be arrested and placed in cat jail.

Liberty275 6 years, 5 months ago

We has a dog that sunflower let out by not locking the fence behind them while running from the chow that appeared from the dog door. Being a chow, he probably terrorized the neighborhood. We had to bail him out of dog prison by paying off the city. The charge was... "dog at large".

LadyJ 6 years, 5 months ago

I think it is hilarious that on the right side of the screen there is a job advertisement for an animal control officer for the city of Lawrence.

kernal 6 years, 5 months ago

"....cats cannot roam about freely." Try telling that to a cat! LOL!

childhoodsurvivor 6 years, 5 months ago

maybe in lawrence they are advocates for pets but in other cities like memphis.... they abuse animals and animals just go "missing" like the story of Kapone that comes out of Memphis Animal Shelter.... a AC worker picked him and another dog up and dropped the other dog off at the shelter but nobody knows where Kapone is and she won't tell. She's been charged with animal cruelty. Then we find out that earlier in the summer she "forgot" that a dog was in her truck and the dog died of heat stroke. There was another officer that got charged with animal cruelty as well. There is a webcam to watch the employees at Memphis. They drag the animals and well.. its all very disturbing..... You can write the mayor, the council members, the governor, or the shelters director and you won't get any resoponses because they believe that they've gotten too much of a bad reputation. Hmmm maybe because they treat the animals so badly......the mayor thinks that its the communities fault for the way the animals are treated, and how many animals are brought in. He doesn't take responsibility for anything and doesn't want to inform or teach the communitiy about animals and how to care for them. Memphis Animal Shelter is one of the sickest animal shelters I've come across. NYC and Miami Dade are in there too.

ECM 6 years, 5 months ago

And this has what to do with this article??? It is easy to accuse others with no facts. There are bad people in every profession. Our Animal Control Officers in Lawrence are very good and advocate for the animal as they should.

cowboy 6 years, 5 months ago

I had a very positive experience with the current officers. Had a crazy neighbor complaining about my "scary" dog. She came out and supported us and talked with the neighbor. My dog wouldn't hurt a fly and she knew that.

mr_right_wing 6 years, 5 months ago

I'd strongly advise against messing with dogs tied to parking meters. You're going to have to deal with some VERY ...uhhh..... 'angry' citiznes. Keep your glorified 'rent-a-cop' hands off.

skinny 6 years, 5 months ago

If your dog is tied to a parking meter you are in violation and it is considered a dog at large ticket, and rightly so!!

pinecreek 6 years, 5 months ago

Perhaps the wrong one is tied to the meter. Let the dog do the shopping...probably has better manners.

Horace 6 years, 5 months ago

Looks like the comment section has attracted some of the idiots of the type identified in the article.

ResQd 6 years, 5 months ago

For goodness sakes, people, learn to take care of your animals. Use common sense, if the animal has no water, WATER it. It doesn't take a dam rocket scientist to know how to take care of an animal. I'm glad they have animal control! Think about it, if the animal is without water especially in the heat we've had, would you want water? Bunch of idiots, who don't take care of there animals. Give me a break!

youngjayhawk 6 years, 5 months ago

Off leash is against the city ordinance. What is not to understand here? So it was a public park, raining, and no one/animal in sight - you were in violation of the law by allowing your dog to be off leash. Buck up, grow up and accept responsibility!

Liberty275 6 years, 5 months ago

It's a siberian husky. Cool dogs. They don't bark much but they love to howl.

Amy Heeter 6 years, 5 months ago

The dog is husky shepherd mix on father side and lab on mothers. I happen to know both dog parents and the human parent if them. They are both beautiful and gentle dogs.

Liberty275 6 years, 5 months ago

If we see a stray, I will leash it and walk around our neighborhood to find the owner after calling the animal shelter (in case their owner calls looking for it). That's what neighbors do.

gatekeeper 6 years, 5 months ago

About 7 years ago they ticketed me for dog at large. My little dog was sitting in my front yard while I raked leaves. I was told I didn't have control of my dog because he wasn't on a leash. I told him to go to the porch and sit, which he promptly did. Had to pay a fine for having my well controlled dog in my yard, under my control. My dog won't leave his yard unless I start walking and tell him to come. Even my neighbors were pissed because my dog is friends with everyone and they love to come say hi to him. That "fine" officer then kept driving past my house every day, hoping she could bust me again.

It would be nice if they'd do what they're supposed to do and stop driving around looking for tickets to write.

She also tried to claim my dog was viscous. Yes, my little Boston Terrier is so viscous that he licks intruders to death. He's so big he might rub against your ankle if you approach him. She claimed he had to be part pit bull. Maybe the people working for animal control should have an idea of basic dog breeds.

It would be nice if this PROGRESSIVE city would do what so many other cities do - trap feral cats, fix them and release them. That's how you control feral cat populations. Our city prefers to trap and kill them. That does nothing but remove a few cats from the streets.

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