Dogs and Cats and Bears, Oh My!
Lauren Foley is Norfolk’s New Animal Control Officer
By Colleen Gundlach
When Norfolk’s longtime animal control officer, Glen Wheeler, passed away last year, his position remained unfilled until Lauren Foley stepped over the line from Canaan to lend a hand.
North Canaan’s animal control officer (ACO) since 2013 and Torrington’s assistant ACO, Foley has a long history of caring for and fostering animals. She grew up with German shepherds and later became involved with companion animals and pet rescue in Falls Village, where she and her husband Bobby have fostered one dog after another.
For many years, Foley assisted Canaan’s former ACO, Cindy Tompkins, with handling aggressive dogs, and helped to find forever placements for the animals. She also served as a resource for people who wanted to donate blankets and/or food for the town’s animal shelter.
By state statute, all dogs must be licensed by six months of age and have an up-to-date rabies vaccination. In Norfolk, Town Clerk Linda Perkins handles the licensing and reports any violations to Foley, who is required to follow up with a visit to the violator. “I like to give the animal’s owner a chance to make it right,” says Foley, “so I only give a warning ticket on my first visit.” The owner then has 14 days to bring everything up-to-date. If the matter is not corrected within that time, an infraction ticket may be issued, which requires a court appearance and most likely a fine. Such tickets are issued on a case by case basis, depending on the nature of the call.
When it comes to leash laws, town ordinances vary. North Canaan, for instance, has a strict law that requires dogs to be on a leash at all times, while Norfolk does not. This could cause an unintended violation if hiking on land that crosses town lines, such as many trails in Great Mountain Forest and state-owned land.
A leash law violation becomes serious in the case of a bite. If an off-leash dog bites another dog on leash, or a human, the blame would fall on the off-leash dog in Canaan, but not necessarily so in Norfolk. If a dog bite occurs on the owner’s property, the dog will be quarantined at home for 14 days by state statute, but if the bite occurs off-property, whether on a road or a walking trail, then the dog would be housed at the town kennel for the entire 14 days, again depending on the nature of the call.
The Norfolk kennel, located on Old Colony Road, could use some TLC, and Foley is eager to make improvements to the accommodations. She and her assistant, Jessie Warner, are working to build more indoor pens and outdoor runs for the dogs, and they plan to re-paint the building this summer. They would like to install a sink to wash the food dishes and are also are looking for cat cages, rabies gloves and catch poles for aggressive dogs. Donations of time, talents and money are always welcome to help improve the conditions at the town kennel.
Dogs at the kennel are cared for by Foley and Warner, while sick or injured animals are taken to Dr. Kim Maynard in Norfolk or to Sand Road Animal Hospital in Falls Village. However, dogs are not the only animals Foley handles. Nuisance animals such as raccoons, bats or even bears are part of Foley’s jurisdiction. She advises homeowners how best to rid themselves of such invaders, but she does not personally remove them.
Unless nuisance animals are on town or state land, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to pay for removing the animals. Homeowner’s insurance may cover some of the costs associated with that. Injured or sick animals are reported to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Horses, cows and wandering livestock sometimes find their way into Foley’s workday, too. She will again give advice on how to capture them, and will sometimes assist, but only becomes fully involved if animal cruelty an issue. In this case, she is required to investigate, usually with the assistance of the state animal control officer and police. When animals are in danger, Foley evacuates them to a safe place. In the past, Loon Meadow Farm was used as a safe haven for large animals in need. Norfolk’s civil defense coordinator, Richard Byrne, is working with Foley to find a new farm where the animals can be temporarily housed in an emergency.
Foley hopes to be able to continue the annual tradition of a rabies clinic that Glen Wheeler started years ago and is also considering a microchip clinic in cooperation with Bikers Against Animal Cruelty.
To keep up-to-date on news from the ACO, be sure to “like” the Norfolk Animal Control page on Facebook. To volunteer or donate an item for the kennel, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Bruce Frisch. Top: Norfolk’s animal control facility on Old Colony Road.