Educate, not enforce.
That is the first priority of the City’s Animal Control Division, part of the Public Works Department.
The City’s four animal control officers spend a good bit of their work day talking to people, answering questions, giving advice and encouraging Perris residents to become or remain good pet owners.
That means keeping vaccines current to avoid rabies and other illnesses, spaying and neutering to avoid overpopulation, complying with municipal ordinances that limit the number of dogs one can own and reporting stray, injured or aggressive animals.
The City’s new Senior Animal Control Officer, Christina Avila, said she and her co-workers share a common trait.
“We all love animals and want them to be properly cared for, loved, happy and healthy,” Avila said. “We’re not animal-catchers, we’re animal control officers. We are not here to take your pet. We are dedicated to education. Perris animal control officers are here to preserve the quality of life of each and every pet through education and enforcement. The care and well-being of pets in Perris are key to the animal control officers in Perris.
Avila said the City can impound a pet after several warnings and written documentation that the animal is aggressive or dangerous. Much of the job of educating residents about pet care and responsibility means working with people who simply do not understand the qualities of a good pet owner and those who seem to care little for their critters.
“Our job is to make them care,” she said.
City animal control officers spend their time patrolling Perris streets, investigating cases of abused, neglected and aggressive animals, working with local veterinarians getting the word out about low-cost shot and check-up clinics, encouraging residents to get their pets spayed and neutered and bringing residences with too many pets into municipal compliance.
Perris ordinances, for example, allow for a maximum of four dogs and cats per household. Cats may be free roaming, but they have to be spayed or neutered, she said.. The City sometimes encounters problems with feral cats. When that occurs, residents may come down to the Public Works Yard at 1015 G Street and rent a trap. Trapped cats, along with aggressive, injured and abused felines also are impounded and taken to the shelter.
Making the rounds
Avila’s day often begins with her cruising Perris neighborhoods on the lookout for loose dogs. But the Animal Control Division also sets traps for feral cats and responds to calls concerning exotic animals like snakes.
On a recent Monday morning, Avila patrolled the City’s Enchanted Heights community, an older neighborhood that borders Riverside County and a spot where loose dogs sometimes are spotted roaming the streets.
Avila spotted a small dog along a concrete ditch but the animal ran off before Avila could coral it. Minutes later, she chatted with a woman who had nine dogs in her yard, informing her of the City’s limit and advising the resident to bring her property into compliance within two weeks.
“We work with residents to get them to comply before we issue a citation,” she said. “Most usually comply.”
Avila then responded to a reported loose dog in a neighborhood in North Perris.
A resident called in to report the black-and-white Chihuahua mix, which had been spotted previously in the same neighborhood. Avila was able to round-up the dog and place it in her truck. The animal will be held for four days before it is placed for adoption.
Exotic animal calls
As she completed the loose dog call, Avila received a report of neglected chickens, one of the exotic critter-reports that City animal-control officers occasionally field.
City animal-control officers also catch snakes of all varieties from non-venomous to venomous. During the warmer summer weather, the heat brings out more snakes and the department responds to two to four calls per month.
In addition, Avila and her team respond to occasional calls involving neglected or abused or loose horses or cattle. As with dogs and cats, the larger animals are taken to the San Jacinto shelter if they are determined to be neglected or abandoned. The animal control division also provides information to large and exotic pet owners about those types of pets and local veterinarians who specialize in caring for them.
“This field is ever changing, so we try to educate ourselves what vets are out there and are easily accessible,” Avila said.
Whether large exotics or small housedogs and cats, young or old pets, mutt or purebred, Avila said the main mission of the City’s animal control division doesn’t change or waver.
“We are dedicated to education,” Avila said. “Perris animal control officers are here to preserve the quality of life of each and every pet through education and enforcement. The care and well-being of the pets in Perris are key to the animal control officers in Perris.