‘Friends,’ Volunteer Step in at Animal Control

By GARLAND KENNEDY

Sentinel Staff Writer

The search for a new animal control officer has yet to yield results, but the Sitka Animal Shelter is still operational, being run by a recently formed non-profit and their newly hired AmeriCorps volunteer.

While Friends of the Sitka Animal Shelter has taken on daily operations at the Jarvis Street facility, board president Kristina Tirman hopes the police department finds a new animal control officer to fill the position Jim Rogers held until July.

“Our intention is to support the shelter and support the ACO, but not to replace the ACO,” Tirman told the Sentinel today. “So we’re definitely happy to help during this interim period, but really the shelter would be in the best shape if there was an ACO and an AmeriCorps volunteer,” since the volunteer is meant to do promotion in the community, work with schools to encourage more kids to volunteer and planning events.

The animal shelter is hosting an open house for those interested in meeting the animals from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at 209 Jarvis Street.

For now, the friends group is keeping animals fed and safe.

Police Department spokesperson Serena Wild said the town is fortunate to have the nonprofit.

“Luckily, there’s the Friends of the Sitka Animal Shelter. They’ve formed this group, a nonprofit, and we’ve been working with them to take over a lot of the animal care duties at the shelter,” Wild said. “They’ve been playing a huge role right now in making sure all the animals up there are cared for, fed. They check in animals and are working with them adopting them out. So they’re doing all the animal shelter duties, just no enforcement.”

At the moment, police officers are in charge of enforcing laws pertaining to animals, she noted.

Wild said the city hasn’t had any responses to the ads for the animal control position.

“Unfortunately, we have not had any interest yet. We haven’t received any applications. We want it filled ASAP,” she said. “We would have liked to hire somebody before Jim (Rogers) had left but unfortunately that didn’t happen.”

The future ACO needs solid animal handling and interpersonal skills.

“We encourage any and everybody to apply. We don’t have a specific person in mind. It could be somebody fresh out of high school. It could be somebody retired. It could be somebody in the middle, just somebody who has good animal skills, as well as people skills, because you need to have both,” Wild said.

With the animal control officer position vacant, she said fewer animal-related calls have been coming into the department.

“We aren’t getting nearly as many animal calls and those people are just talking to their neighbors and it was on them dealing with it themselves,” Wild said.

Tirman would like to see the ACO position filled quickly.

“We’re definitely spreading the word and encouraging people to apply… What we’re doing to help is we have an AmeriCorps volunteer that started last week. His name is Jerry Kellrooney. He’s wonderful and he is filling in for some of those essential duties at the shelter that the animal control officer would normally do,” Tirman said.

Kellrooney said he performs a variety of tasks ranging from animal care to administration.

“I do the administrative stuff that was being handled by Kristina (Tirman) and the board members, as well as the animal control officer – he was pulling double duty as well, working eight hours and then sometimes putting in extra time in order to take care of the animals here… I take care of applications for volunteers and process those applications,” he told the Sentinel today. “I’ll be training at least one new person next month. There’s a couple of school groups that are going to be coming in next week.”

After retiring three years ago, he moved to Sitka this month from South Bend, Oregon, and lives in a camper on Japonski Island with his wife, two beagles and a whippet.

As for his work at the shelter, he said, “It’s great. I think that the volunteers here are really, really dedicated and it’s a lot of fun to work with them for sure… I’m really impressed by the number of people that want to volunteer here and are involved with the welfare of animals around the island,” he said.

He’s at the shelter from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.

Tirman hopes the person who takes up the ACO position is “someone who’s willing to work collaboratively with us. And, obviously, someone who likes and cares about animals a lot but also someone who’s very community oriented. Because that position, really it’s about taking care of the animals and the health of the animals, but it’s also about the health and wellbeing of the community of Sitka.”

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