A salute to animal control officers
Montclair Township Animal Shelter
Animals available for fostering and placement
By KELLY NICHOLAIDES
For Montclair Local
Montclair’s animal control officers are tasked with capturing injured or sick animals, investigating dog-bite incidents, helping shelter animals get adopted, providing surrender-prevention services, reuniting stray animals with their owners, and removing deceased animals from public property.
As essential workers, their work hasn’t stopped, and has been even tougher with the coronavirus shutdown.
Last week, April 12-18, was animal control officer (ACO) appreciation week. Montclair has much to appreciate.
Disease-prevention measures such as hand washing, disinfecting, and wearing surgical gloves are a normal part of the officers’ day. Now they wear personal protection equipment (PPE) when engaging with the public. COVID-19 has changed how they educate and interact with residents, shifting almost completely online.
“Everyone is home to observe what’s happening outside, and spring is when wildlife is giving birth. It’s a double whammy. We’re getting calls about bunnies that aren’t really abandoned. The moms return to the nests at dawn and dusk. Fledglings sometimes fall out
of their nests or mom kicks them out to go on their own,” said Elizabeth Morgan, ACO and director of the Montclair Township Animal Shelter.
MTAS has facilitated the placement of 45 cats and 27 dogs in foster homes during the pandemic. Ten cats and four dogs are left at MTAS. Two senior cats were abandoned in a box outside the shelter last week directly under a sign that read “Stop! Do not leave your animal. Call us.” And the MTAS is supplying pet food for residents who are too cash-strapped to provide for their animals, Morgan said.
Adoptions take place in the courtyard and by appointment only. ACO supervisor Michele Shiber conducts adoption interviews.
“I have taken a scared, withdrawn shelter dog home to foster. Her progress is shared on our shelter FB and Instagram accounts daily. One great accomplishment was getting a pair of 85-pound hounds into a foster situation, and it just might turn out to be a foster fail. My job is 75 percent education and 25 percent actual animal handling. There is a lot of public relations involved,” Shiber said.
Shelter dogs get special treatment from ACO Shaune Jones, who takes them outside for play time to reduce stress. Jones often brings them his chicken, turkey and meatloaf leftovers. “I grew up without pets, so I started taking care of my neighbors’ pets,” Jones said.
When a resident’s dog passed away at home, ACO Ryan Urbano put on a Hazmat suit that ACOs normally use to address hoarding situations. He entered the home and took the canine for cremation arranged by the veterinarian. “He was an older dog and did not have any medical problems, it was just his time to go. The woman called Animal Control because she had no clue what to do with him,” Urbano said.
For loose-dog calls, officers check the Montclair Township dog licensing master list, which contains names, addresses, and descriptions. Dog-bite incidents are reported and handled by phone. Calls about animal cruelty should go to the Montclair Police Department.
A resident who lived alone was hospitalized with a COVID-19 infection, so ACO Julie Hamer-Kahn geared up to enter the apartment and take the woman’s cat to Cameron Animal Hospital, where it stayed as the woman recovered. “One of the most difficult parts of this job during the pandemic is the limitations of direct contact with our community,” said Hamer-Kahn, adding that she loves being a voice for wildlife and domestic animals.
Montclair Animal Control operates 24 hours a day, year-round.