By Lin Stone
Police Chief Jim Warden welcomed Shelburne resident Cherie Shrader “to the beat” as the town’s animal control officer last year, shortly after the previous animal control officer, David Palmer passed away. Warden says, “We’re glad that Cherie has joined us. She does a really good job working the streets and is very responsible.” Although according to Shrader, Palmer’s shoes were “pretty big shoes to fill.”
Warden explained, “Palmer was Shelburne’s animal control officer for the last 11 years; he was a great guy and a very funny old Vermonter. Although Palmer took calls for both wildlife and domestic pets, Shrader’s responsibility is domestic animals. The police and the game wardens now handle wildlife calls.”
This year Warden reports that he is very concerned by the more than usual number of unleashed dogs that have bitten other dogs or people. “We have a situation in town with more dogs running loose and more incidents of attacks. Numerous cases recently – five or six bites reported within just the last couple of months. Often the owner says, ‘My dog won’t hurt a soul,’ but the owners aren’t always as capable of keeping their dogs under control when they’re off leash as they want to think. ”
Shrader also shared that “Just yesterday an unleashed dog bit a runner in one of our neighborhoods. His electric dog collar was not effective or working. The dog owner had told a concerned runner, ‘Oh he just makes a lot of noise.’ But the dog bit her and when the runner got home she found that the dog’s nip had in fact drawn blood. Now this woman has to worry and wonder about rabies and tetanus.
“All we want to do,” Shrader continued, “is to protect the public, and in particular, to be certain that all pets are up to date on their rabies shots, because accidents do happen, despite every human and dog’s best intentions.”
The town rules require that owners register their cats and dogs with the town and keep their dogs on a leash and under control at all times, including when walking on the town’s recreational paths [friendly note: Shrader likes to walk the paths too !]. However, dogs may be off leash in the town’s new (free!) dog park off Harbor Road. Shrader adds that it is helpful if pets also have tags with name and phone numbers so that if lost, found, or hurt, pets can be promptly returned to their owners. Town fees for registration after April 1 are $13 if the dog or cat is neutered and $19 if not and require a copy of the rabies certificate when you come in. Shrader notes that it is important to register cats too – particularly if they go outside and are at increased risk of contact with wild animals that may carry the rabies virus: cats scratch and can readily transfer the virus to humans! There have now been three confirmed cases of rabid skunks in Shelburne; two as reported last week found on Shelburne Farms and one last weekend on Thomas Road.
So far, 654 domestic animals are registered in Shelburne, and reportedly, that’s likely only a quarter of the number of household pets that need to be.
“The reason we want your pets registered,” Shrader explained, “is to be sure we can get them back home safely and in a reasonable amount of time. If we can’t find the owner, we usually try to find the animal a good adoptive home. The rescuer generally gets first right of refusal. Then, if those options don’t pan out, we call the humane society.”
Shrader offers this good neighbor and safety advice: if you find a friendly pet running loose, try to keep it safe and away from the road and cars. If it has a collar, tie it to a tree or put it in a garage until animal control gets there. If you have lost an animal, call dispatch right away, don’t wait; also, don’t forget to call dispatch back as soon as the animal is found.
Finally, Shrader wants to note and thank everyone who takes the time and care to call animal control and to grab a loose animal and keep it safe until she gets there, reiterating that the animal control officers only concern is ensuring both animal and human safety.