Ride along with a Macon-Bibb animal control officer
After climbing into his truck on a recent morning, Bibb County Animal Enforcement Officer Bruce Rozier checked his laptop to decide which of the pending calls he would go to first.
He is dispatched to calls through a digital system, and his computer showed several calls pending, which he said is normal. Rozier is one of just two animal enforcement officers on patrol and they rarely get caught up.
“If the phones and internet are down at the office, we catch a little bit of a break,” he said. “With only two of us, we get swamped with calls.”
Sonja Adams, manager of the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office Animal Enforcement Division, said a third enforcement officer is in training, but it still isn’t enough with an average of 60 to 100 calls per day.
If she had more officers, she said it would not mean more animals getting taken to the already overcrowded animal shelter. With additional officers, there could be more community outreach to prevent animal issues rather than just responding to calls, Adams said.
As she spoke in her office, a list of more than 100 names written in black felt tip marker on a white dry erase board hung behind her. All of those are pending court cases, she said.
“We have to be able to get to those people before it gets to the point where they get on my board,” she said.
Common citations include people failing to provide adequate shelter for dogs, failing to keep their dogs on their property, failing to spay or neuter and not keeping rabies vaccinations up to date. The officers are not deputies so they can’t arrest people, but they can write citations.
Bibb County passed an ordinance in 2014 requiring dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered, but many people don’t comply and strays remain a problem, officials said.
With the county animal shelter full, as well as area non-profit shelters, Adams allowed The Telegraph to ride along with the enforcement officers to see first hand what they do each day.
Truck fills up fast with animals
Rozier had already picked up one dog that morning and it wasn’t long before he had another.
A call came in from the Bloomfield area that a black and white pit bull had escaped a neighbor’s yard and was roaming around. That’s a common call. Rozier had been to the same location before.
When he arrived, the female dog was tied up in the yard with no shelter. A puppy was also tied up on the carport. The woman who lived in the house said the pit bull was her boyfriend’s dog.
Rozier wanted to write her a citation for having no shelter and the dog not being spayed, but the woman refused to accept it. Rozier took the dog. He allowed her to keep the puppy because she agreed to take it inside the house.
The boyfriend could get the dog back, Rozier said, by coming to the shelter and accepting the citation.
The next call was for an “aggressive” stray brown and white dog roaming a neighborhood on Foxcroft Lane off Heath Road.
As Rozier knocked on the door of the home where the call came from, the dog approached him from behind. It was malnourished, but friendly and came right to him. It was covered in ticks.
Because it was friendly, Rozier suspects it most likely had been someone’s pet and was abandoned.
The next call was nearby on Cavalier Drive for an injured stray kitten that had showed up at a business. Rozier pulled it out from under a shrub and saw right away that it had an infected wound. He suspected it had been hit by a car. He said it would likely have to be euthanized.
Each time he picks up an animal, he spends several minutes filling out forms on his computer.
Rozier has been doing animal control for 13 years, but said he has never been bitten.
“They don’t pay me enough to get bitten,” he said. “I’ve got tricks.”
For one, he keeps some food with him, which always helps him makes friends with a dog.
Rozier picked up 17 dogs in one day recently, he said. He formerly worked animal control for the city of Macon before consolidation. The biggest difference now, he said, is that he has a wider area to cover.
‘This is what I do’
Rozier’s colleague, Rebecca Galeazzo, didn’t pick up any animals during a couple of hours of riding with her, but she stayed busy answering calls.
One was for a dog tied to a fire hydrant near Ocmulgee East Boulevard, but when she got to the hydrant there was no dog.
Galeazzo then went to a nearby home where a dog there had reportedly chased someone. The dog didn’t attack, but the person fell and had to go to the hospital. Galeazzo was planning to write a citation, but no one came to the door, although she could hear someone in the house.
She left, but said the owners would eventually get a citation. “I’ll just have to keep coming back,” she said.
The next call sounded disturbing. Someone in a neighborhood near Mercer University reported they suspected their neighbor had moved out of the house and left their dog behind. The neighbor hadn’t seen any lights recently and thought the power had been turned off, but could hear the dog inside.
Galeazzo could see the dog through a window and it looked healthy. She also could see that the power was still on. She was able to reach the resident on the phone and found out that she had been working long shifts, which is why the neighbor had not been seeing lights. So no action was necessary.
Galeazzo isn’t a lucky as Rozier about not getting bitten.
She answered a call about an injured dog last year, and it appeared friendly at first, but then it lunged at her face.
She had to get 30 stitches in her face. Her nose was broken, jaw dislocated and she missed work for a month. She was nervous at first when she returned, but she didn’t think about quitting.
“This is what I do,” she said.