RACINE COUNTY — A new era in animal control is under way here, and the Racine Police Department is just starting to adapt to its new role.
On Jan. 1, the Wisconsin Humane Society began providing animal sheltering services for all county municipalities except the villages of Rochester and Union Grove and towns of Burlington and Raymond.
For the City of Racine, the biggest change is inheriting the responsibility for animal control which the former Countryside Humane Society handled through 2012. And Racine was by far Countryside’s largest client.
So far, Racine has two full-time community service officers, or CSOs, who will do both animal control and parking enforcement, and their civilian supervisor, said Police Department spokesman Sgt. Marty Pavilonis. Two more part-timers will be hired, he said.
One police SUV from the fleet has been assigned to the CSOs, he said, with plans to acquire two vehicles. In the meantime, the CSOs are using two pick-up trucks from the Department of Public Works.
The CSOs can issue citations, Pavilonis said. For arrests, police will help.
The CSOs will do investigations, he said — for example, in cruelty or suspected dog-fighting cases. That was another Countryside task.
“Obviously, we’re being handed new responsibilities,” Pavilonis said.
“... There’s a learning curve for us. We’re going to find out things that work well or don’t work well. We will try to work through it and make the best of what we have here.”
Learning from Milwaukee
Alison Kleibor, director of the Wisconsin Humane Society Racine Campus, 2706 Chicory Road, said the city’s CSO supervisor has been learning from Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control. She did ride-alongs with MADAC for the last two weeks of 2012, and this week someone from that organization did a ride-along with her.
That training, Kleibor said, would have included animal handling, body language and use of equipment. She said even someone with no animal background can be trained to successfully work with animals.
“It’s certainly not easy, but I think it will work,” she said.
The Humane Society has animal control officers on staff, Kleibor said, but with more limited roles. They have no law enforcement power, so they cannot do seizures or issue citations.
Those officers can transport animals and trap stray and feral animals — though not wildlife, Kleibor said.
In its first four days since opening the Racine campus on Jan. 7, it had taken in 19 strays, she said. And Kleibor repeated her intention to avoid euthanasia.
“We will not be euthanizing for time or space,” she vowed.
Regarding Racine’s CSOs and their animal-handling skills, the Humane Society can only recommend future training.
But Pavilonis said the city will avail itself of those opportunities. “We certainly don’t have some cavalier attitude about it (like), ‘These are just dogs,’ ” he said.