For a city of about 60,000 people, Meriden has three full-time animal control officers.
Officers Bryan Kline, Sarah Bacon and 27-year veteran Max Fresquez report to work right next door to the Meriden Humane Society, although the two shelters are separate entities. Municipal shelters like Meriden take in strays and owners surrenders within city limits.
“Legally we take in the strays, we hold them for seven days, if no one comes to claim them then they’re up for adoption as long as they’re friendly,” Bacon explains.
Although Meriden’s municipal shelter receives city funding, it’s not enough to cover the gap with expenses with intensive medical care that’s often required in serious rescue cases. To meet that need, the “M.A.C. Pack” engages with partners in the area including veterinary hospitals.
Since taking over the department six years ago, Officer Kline has virtually eliminated the need for euthanasia for overcrowding, crediting a robust social media campaign to encourage adoptions along with assistance from area rescue groups.
Kline is also spearheading the effort to obtain 501(c)3 status to facilitate more fundraising to support the department’s multifaceted mission. Gone are the days of the stereotypical “dog catcher” – the mission of animal control officers, Kline said, has evolved to include community engagement and education as well as animal rescue and rehabilitation.
“It’s more changing to animal care and control,” Officer Bacon agreed. “We’re caring for the animals more, more medical care, more behavioral assessments, more adoptions.”
All pets available for adoption from Meriden Animal Control are neutered or spayed and receive full behavioral evaluations and necessary veterinary care including vaccinations.
But the job of an animal control officer encompasses far more than tending to the shelter and overseeing adoptions. Officers answer a variety of calls in the field all day long. They range from roaming dogs to nuisance complaints to wildlife rescue to extreme cases of cruelty and neglect.
“It’s not an easy job to do; there’s a lot of tough days,” Kline says. “But along with the tough days come a lot of rewarding days as well .”
One of those days was the day Rocky found his forever home.
Officers rescued the pitbull mix in March after finding him emaciated, locked inside a cage in an abandoned house. After five months of intensive care, he was adopted by a Middletown couple. Now Rocky serves as an emotional support animal for his new owner, Ray.
“I think that’s really neat that they found each other right when they needed each other,” says Ray’s girlfriend Caitlin. “Seeing them play together is very emotional.”
That’s the potential behind every face in Meriden’s kennels – a second chance.
“We have a lot of loose dogs, abandoned dogs,” says Bacon, “things that people just throw away like a piece of trash. And we have to take them in, we have to evaluate them, we have to pretty much give them a whole new life.”