Towns differ on how they handle calls relating to pets, wildlife
Man vs. animal is an age-old battle, but how it's handled can vary from town to town.
Animal control officers enforce town ordinances regulating animal ownership and respond to calls involving domestic and wild animals. It is up to the town to decide if the job is done by an officer or layperson, or whether to fill the position at all.
Goffstown has been without an animal control officer since early this year but regularly receives animal calls ranging from barking dogs to dead birds. Any officer working in the area is sent out to assess the situation, according to Det. Sgt. Kevin Laroche.
Goffstown police officers don't transport animals. Law-abiding critters holed up under a shed, for example, are out of their reach.
"We certainly don't have any means to trap an animal or anything like that," Laroche said.
In those cases, the officer recommends that the homeowner contact a private sector animal control company. Dispatchers also keep a list of private animal controllers, but the department doesn't recommend any particular business.
Some larger incidents, such as a deer struck by a motorist, require police investigation into the accident. Officers at the scene call someone to remove the animal involved.
Police hope to fill the animal control position with a lay person working on a part-time or on-call basis by the end of this year, according to Lt. Pierre Pouliot.
The Hooksett animal control officer position has been vacant since 2005 when the previous officer left. Police Chief Peter Bartlett said he has no immediate plans to fill the spot, which was a full-time position paying $11 an hour.
The department averages about 225 animal calls a year, mostly involving stray or barking dog complaints.
"The majority are routine calls for service," said Hooksett Police Chief Peter Bartlett. "We respond and try to mitigate circumstances as best we can."
Police received 13 dog bite calls in 2013 as well as 28 calls for dogs left in cars. The department owns a lost dog chip reader to help bring a wandering canine home. Calls regarding larger animals, including bear, moose or deer, may require mutual aid from Fish and Game.
Bedford retains Steven Paul as a full-time civilian animal control officer.
"A majority of animal control officers are civilian employees," Paul said.
He estimated that he's dispatched to over 300 animal calls annually. In addition to enforcing state laws and local ordinances pertaining to animal control, educating people about coping with wildlife is also a large part of his job, Paul said.
"This year seems to be more wildlife issues than other issues," Paul said.
Residents have more run-ins with wildlife as development forces animals out of their habitat into suburbia. Paul often advises people on how to handle four-legged intruders and best practices to avoid future visits.
"The way I'm seeing it is it's just not here, it's everywhere across the United States," Paul said.
The best bet is to keep a distance and let wildlife, such as deer and bears, wander through the area on their own, Paul said. His job sometimes requires trapping smaller wildlife like beavers or raccoons.
Domestic animals calls, such as dogs reportedly left in cars, are another area of Paul's job where public education comes into play.
In addition to working with the public, Paul maintains a good working relationship with the Game Warden and occasionally calls the Highway Department to remove road kill.