By Dave DeLuca
There are two animal control officers in our area—one working with the Corvallis Police Department, the other employed by Benton County. When they are off duty, the police or sheriff’s office step in to help.
Michele Tracy drives the Corvallis Police Department Animal Control truck Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Her primary responsibility is to protect the public from dangerous animals, but her daily routine is usually less exciting than you might expect.
The majority of Tracy’s work involves chasing down loose dogs. She takes them back home when she can, or holds them in her truck temporarily if she cannot. If a dog bites a person hard enough to break the skin, Tracy will impound it.
She can also issue citations to the owners of barking dogs (or crowing roosters) if neighbors wish to issue complaints. Usually, however, Tracy finds it better to facilitate solutions and compromises.
She knows that any animal can become dangerous under the right circumstances, and has two injuries to prove it.
“I’ve been bitten by a very big dog and a cat. The cat was worse. I still have scars from both,” she said.
Erica O’Neill is the Benton County Animal Control officer. She’s available for calls Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. She chases down animals at large like dogs, cats, goats, and others. One domestic rat has been in her truck, and she has even wrangled an emu. O’Neill also helps mediate noise complaints and enforces county codes.
About one-third of her time is spent checking up on animal neglect and abuse cases. Those situations are potentially dangerous because of the people as well as the animals.
“When you’re dealing with animal calls, you’re dealing with emotions,” she explained. “Some people are angry before they even know why you’re there.”
Although she rarely needs them, sheriff’s deputies will provide her with back up.
“I need to be safe, too.”
Speaking of safety, O’Neill learned a valuable lesson about not turning her back on an animal her first year on the job. When attempting to catch a stray dog, she made the mistake of turning to her truck to retrieve a longer control stick. A bite on the back of her leg was the result. Now she knows to back away in similar situations.
These professionals know to be careful around strange animals; the public should as well.
If you see a stray, injured, or dangerous animal anywhere in Benton County call 541-766-6924.