National Animal Control Officer Appreciation week is celebrated every second full week of April. The week is designed to say thank you and show appreciation to all animal control officers who are dedicated to helping pets and people every day.

Jodi Baird has been with Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control for the past 16 years. She owns three dogs of her own, all rescues from the shelter. “I own small dogs,” she says with a smile. “Because I get dragged around by big dogs all day.” The work she does can be difficult, but rewarding. “One of the things I always hear is, I couldn’t do your job because I love animals too much,” she says. “Well, we love animals enough to make a difference.”

Making a difference is what Baird and her fellow officers do every day. 12 animal control officers completed 19,128 calls of service last year in the city of Fort Wayne and New Haven. Of those calls, 3,772 were to investigate potential cruelty or neglect. Baird says before she started working at the shelter, she didn’t realize how many animals come into the shelter and how many good animals there are. “I cried on my interview,” she says. “It was an eye opener. It was hard.”

Animal Control officer Jodi Baird never knows what a day at the office might look like!

But she realized over time that there are situations the animals are put in where being at the shelter is the best place for them. “We are able to be a new beginning and let them know there are better situations for an animal to become part of a family.” You can see wonderful pets up for adoptions on the shelter’s Facebook page.

Baird says it’s important for the community to see the work her and fellow officers do in a positive light. “We no longer want to be the dog catcher that is seen in the cartoons chasing dogs down the street. We want people to know that we’re here to help. This community dedicates huge resources to assisting people with pets.” Baird says it all starts with educating the public. “Food. Water. Shelter. Those are the minimal requirement for any animal in the city limit. It should be the requirement worldwide.”

Baird says a good day is when you resolve a situation and drive past a house and see where a dog that used to be chained up outside, is now inside and living as an indoor dog. “Even though it may only help one or two a day, it helps prevent that dog from being brought into the shelter. It makes you feel good, and feel like you’re doing something positive.”

Pet owners can help animal control officers by licensing and tagging their pets. Microchipping is a great way to identify your animal if they get lost. You’ll also make them happy if you follow regular vaccination protocols. So if you happen to see an animal control officer this week, or anytime for that matter, say “thank you” for what they do and give them a friendly wave if you see them in your neighborhood.