Who really wants to be a dogcatcher? The assignment is so unpalatable that the inability to get elected to it used to symbolize the ultimate in political failure.
Todd Moore, who resigned this month as Franklin County animal control officer after a series of complaints against him culminating in a reprimand for driving his official vehicle to a yard sale, said he was “burnt out.” The job, he told State Journal reporter Lauren Hallow, is thankless in many ways. “It wears on you.”
He’s not alone. There’s a black cloud over the whole enterprise of animal welfare and control here and elsewhere in Kentucky. A manager of the local animal shelter resigned two years ago after misidentifying a pet dog as a coyote and releasing it into the woods. The controversy led to a reorganization of the Franklin County Humane Society board, but problems persisted. One board member and a volunteer later took a plea deal after being accused of stealing a dog for safekeeping.
One trouble with being dogcatcher – or animal shelter manager – is you almost always make an enemy of someone, whatever you do. If you’re too soft-hearted, you get criticized for not doing a good enough job keeping stray animals off the street. If you’re too hard-hearted, you come under attack for cruelty to helpless dogs and cats and condemning too many of them to be euthanized.
“Look at it this way,” Moore said. “If someone calls me and says, ‘There’s a stray dog running loose. Come pick it up,’ then the owner of the dog’s not going to be very happy. But if I go out to pick the dog up and can’t find the dog, the call doesn’t get resolved, then the person who called in to begin with isn’t happy.”
Moore experienced his share of big and little unpleasantries in 12 years as animal control officer. Judge-Executive Ted Collins suspended him without pay for two days in 2007 for telling a humane society staffer the manager (the same one involved in the dog-coyote affair) could “kiss my ass.” Kentucky State Police told Collins they’d had trouble reaching Moore at times when his services were needed. County Treasurer Susan Laurenson complained he failed to reimburse the county for personal use of his official cell phone.
Then there was the time in 2009 when he was suspended for five days without pay when then-animal control officer Kevin Caudle told then-Sheriff Steve Clark that Moore had used road department computers to view pornography and visit webcam chat rooms.
Notwithstanding the chorus of shame, Sheriff Pat Melton says he believes Moore did the best he could, within the limits of his abilities, to perform a tough job. Moore sincerely wanted to do right by the animals and to protect the public safety, in his opinion.
Part of the difficulty may be the community’s low expectations of what an animal control officer can and should do. The old saw about a hapless politician’s failure to get elected dogcatcher more or less sums up the public contempt.
Local government in general attempts to meet its animal-welfare responsibilities on the economy plan. The city and county jointly pay the Franklin County Humane Society $100,000 a year to handle the chore. That’s not nearly enough to do what needs to be done, so the society forever pleads for additional help from the general public.
Until the taxpayers of Frankfort and Franklin County decide to make a more substantial investment in professional animal services, they can probably expect to keep getting what they pay for, along with some things they don’t really want.