It's a job with some of the most negative images and reputations of all. For years children saw them as the enemy screaming, "dog cathcer" as soon as they saw their trucks.
Photojournalist Jake VanDonge and Gwyn Bevel recently found out, Animal Control Services performs a vital function that has many more duties than just catching stray dogs.
It's a job Somebody's Gotta Do, because if they didn't the problems caused by pet overpopulation would mount tenfold.
Kennel staff member Amber Bernal says, "I have always loved animals, since I was a little girl."
Animal Control Officer Mandi Davis feels the same, "I love animals, ever since I was little I wanted to work with animals."
That is why Amber and Mandi truly love their jobs.
Bernal: "Just coming in here everyday and taking care of the animals and making sure they are fed and watered. It can get very busy, but everybody here tends to keep calm and we try to take care of the clients that come in here and take care of the animals as quickly as we can."
Clean up duty certainly keeps this crew busy.
Bernal: "You'll have animals that come in that have been playing in the mud all day or swimming in lakes or just have upset stomachs and it is just everywhere. Yeah it can get very dirty."
Disinfection is key to keep diseases from spreading, so from rabbit's cages to convincing pooches to step out of their kennels for a quick spray down, it all has to get done.
The main goal of the folks at the center is to reunite pets with their owners.
Bernal: "It is awesome when people come in and claim their pets. I have had several people call and say do you have my animal, we have a dog matching that description and they will come in, in tears and are very grateful that we do have their animals."
Davis: "We love them all. We treat them all the same and we would rather them be home with their families rather than up at the shelter."
Animal Control Officers are behind the wheel patrolling the streets and some they pick up in the field they are able to get home right away.
Mandi says she never knows what calls a day will bring.
Davis: "We get snake calls, rattle snakes, bull snakes some of them have actually gotten into the engines of cars, in the home, they are just trying to get warm. We've got racoons in the home, possums in the home, then you have your dogs that are stray, some are aggressive, some are not, all different kinds of things go on, on a daily basis."
Sometimes stops along the way are not so pleasant.
Davis: "It is pretty dirty sometimes, picking up the deads on the side of the road can get kind of messy. Wildlife is a 50- 50 chance because they are not domesticated, so they are a little bit of the crazier calls, but nothing we can't handle."
Which is a good thing, since a beaver has built a massive dam in a drainage pipe.
Davis: "We will probably relocate it and take it out to the lake and make it a new home, away from housing."
That is just part of a job these city employees say is very rewarding as well.
More pets have been claimed by their owners or saved by rescue groups than ever before, since the Animal Services Center opened in February 2011.
Davis: "We really do care about the animals, we are definately going to put the public first and their safety but we are, our concern is with the animal and what is best for them."
Bernal: "I feel a sense of accomplishment that we did as a team got their animal off the street and was able to get him back home."
Want more information?
For information on pets currently staying at the Services center go to-----> http://www.petango.com/wichitafallsanimalservices
The Center is located at 1207 Hatton Road in Wichita Falls
Phone: (940) 761-8894 Fax: (940) 720-0150
You can also find out more information at the Wichita Falls website by clicking this link----> http://tx-wichitafalls2.civicplus.com/index.aspx?nid=374
For a link to the Humane Society of Wichita County click here----> http://www.humanesocietyofwichitacounty.org/
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