As we celebrate National Animal Care & Control Appreciation Week, April 10-16, we are thrilled to share this guest blog by Melissa D. Knicely, Communications Manager, CMPD Animal Care & Control. Thank you, Melissa, for so eloquently honoring the important work of your coworkers, and the dedication of animal care & control staffs everywhere.
This month marks my fifteenth year working for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Animal Care & Control (AC&C) as Communications Manager.
When I was asked to write this blog, I was so excited about the opportunity and immediately called to share the news with my mom. The next day, she asked if I had decided what I was going to write about. I told her that I had not started brainstorming ideas yet. She immediately launched into naming great stories that have happened over the years–The saga of Carter the monkey; Charlotte, the dog rescued during Hurricane Matthew, or hitting our goal of a ninety percent live release rate in 2020…
As I listened to her rattle off suggestions like she was reading a Netflix menu, I realized I could write thousands of blogs about amazing things I’ve seen take place at AC&C in the last fifteen years! The longer I thought about all my mom’s suggestions, the more I thought, ‘Wow, my mom knows so much about AC&C and what we do, but clearly that’s because she is my mom, right?’ It made me think about the greatest challenge I have had in my role all these years: expanding positive public perception of AC&C in our rapidly growing community by shedding the misnomers of old-school animal control.
When people use the terms “dog catcher” and “the pound” to describe animal shelters, it makes animal welfare staffers’ blood pressure skyrocket, especially those who work for municipal shelters like AC&C. To us, they are antiquated words that may have had a place nearly 30 years ago when the AC&C shelter was built, when over 20 thousand animals were entering the shelter annually and only a small percentage of them were leaving the shelter in a positive manner.
However, today we are well beyond “the pound” and “the dog catcher” days of impending doom. We are animal welfare professionals who work at an animal shelter and pet adoption center. We work alongside a village of volunteers, local animal advocates, donors, national animal welfare organizations, granting organizations, local business partners, rescue groups, and incredible local animal welfare partners who continue to help us make huge strides and have worked hard to put amazing programs in place that are helping keep more animals out of the shelter and in their homes.
I’m so proud of the 80 coworkers I have the pleasure of working with. They are dedicated and passionate about the work they do, day in and day out, to help better the lives of the animals in our care. I believe in 100% transparency, so I won’t sugarcoat it. Our jobs are like any other jobs: They come with challenges, frustrations, and a copious amount of stress. But we also share big laughs, and often take a ten-minute break to cuddle a dog or snuggle a cat as a stress reliever. Pocket pets serve as our in-office therapists. Even more often, we share tears. Some are sad tears, but most are happy tears. Like when we celebrated the adoption of a dog named Storm, the focus of an animal cruelty case that showed a video of him being submerged by his owner in a tub filled with bleach water. Luckily for Storm, he was rescued by AC&C officers and became an extended-stay guest with us for 18 months while he awaited the outcome of his court case.
Storm became our dog, part of our family. He had his own care team that worked tirelessly to help him recover. They witnessed a metamorphosis with him, saw him blossom from a scared, fearful, bite-risk dog to a happy ball of energy, kisses, and love. The end…
Just kidding, I can’t leave you hanging there without finishing his happily-ever-after.
Storm won his case. We won our case.
So how is it a win, when now we have to say goodbye to our dog? There were a lot of happy tears shed by Storm’s team when they watched him walk out of the shelter doors to begin his new life with his new family. Saying goodbye to Storm was kind of like eating a Sour Patch Kid, very bittersweet.
Thanks, Mom, for inspiring me to tell our stories.
Melissa D. Knicely
Communications Manager, CMPD Animal Care & Control
Photo of Storm: CMPD/Facebook