There were several arrests for animals being inadequately cared for in 2020 and Greene County Animal Control Deputy Kaitlyn Schmitt hopes to see that trend end.
“Regardless of the type of animal you have and for whatever purpose, they need to be treated with dignity and respect,” Schmitt said. “I’ve always been passionate about animals. I got into (the job) by happenstance and I loved it.”
In 2020, there were several animal seizures including the dog Champ, who was severely emaciated, and more than 100 different animals of various species taken from a homeowner in Dyke.
Schmitt has served in her role as animal control officer for three years and now splits her time between animal control and law enforcement.
“Working closely with the deputies is what led me down the path of law enforcement, as well,” she said. “Having the law enforcement side helps me be able to do a little bit more as before I had to rely on waiting for another deputy to help me with certain procedural (matters). It kind of expedites the process.”
Schmitt said one aspect she loves about the job is just talking with the residents.
“I want the citizens reading to know that we are—more than anything, we’re here to help,” Schmitt said. “I’m not here just to take animals away or make lives difficult. I charge where and when I need to charge, but I like to give people chances to work with me so I can educate them.”
Additionally, Schmitt said her relationships with many nonprofits in the region can help those who may not be financially able to supply what the animal needs.
“I just want to make sure that the animals are being cared for in a way that’s up to code, that’s humane and that the owners and people caring for them have access to those things that they need,” she said. “It’s OK to ask for help and it’s also OK to say, ‘I can’t keep this animal anymore.’ I know that it’s so hard to do.”
In Virginia it’s illegal to keep a dog chained outside if it’s 32 degrees or below or 85 degrees and above.
“We take into account if you have a husky who’s outside and 32 degrees and is happy as a clam lying in the snow,” she said.
For animals kept in outdoor pens that don’t get moved, deworming is really important, Schmitt said.
“Sometimes we go to calls where someone is worried about the welfare of an animal because it’s too thin and a lot of the times it’s being fed properly (but) they’re not being dewormed,” Schmitt said. “If you don’t deworm them it can kill them.”
Schmitt suggests contacting a veterinarian for more information about deworming animals.
Before buying an animal, Schmitt recommends people read up on the breed and realize it’s a 10-14 year (or more) commitment for dogs and 20 or so years for cats and 30 years for horses.
“Just like with anything they need regular vaccinations; they are going to need vet care,” she said. “Know you’re going to have to spend money on flea and tick medicine and budget that in, too. And as they get older their needs change and they might need medication and that could be expensive. Also, know that it’s OK for you to admit 10 years down the road that you can’t afford it because your life has changed. But prepare for that even before you get a pet.”
Greene County only requires dog owners to vaccinate against rabies, but there are other vaccines that might be important depending on the lifestyle a person leads with their pet. Schmitt also recommends microchipping the animal so if it gets out of your yard, it’ll be easy for someone to find you—as well as a collar with a phone number that’ll make it easy to reach you.
Schmitt also said don’t hesitate to call if you believe an animal is being mistreated, as the office will do welfare checks, too.
“I can’t help or fix things I don’t know about,” she said.
Finally, Schmitt recommends every cat owner get the cat spayed or neutered immediately to help with the population control of feral cats, especially in neighborhoods.
“Our goal is not to take people’s animals,” she said. “That’s just when it becomes necessary. People can reach out to us with questions and concerns and we can help them in whatever capacity, but at the end of the day I still have a job to do and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”