On the Streets and At the Pound With a Springfield Animal Control Officer

Dec 26, 2014

Officer Rob Rem with Springfield Animal Control is loading up to begin his rounds for the day.  He breaks the mold of the old fashioned “dog catcher” stereotype with his warm smile and outgoing personality.  But Rem says it is difficult to shake the negative perception the public often still holds.

“We don’t just drive around catching dogs—we’re trying to make a difference.”

Officer Rob Rem with Springfield Animal Control is loading up to begin his rounds for the day.  He breaks the mold of the old fashioned “dog catcher” stereotype with his warm smile and outgoing personality.  But Rem says it is difficult to shake the negative perception the public often still holds.

“We don’t just drive around catching dogs—we’re trying to make a difference.”

On this morning’s ride, Rem is called to follow up on a reported dog bite, pick up a feral cat, and follow up on a previous report. 

“Our role has a lot to do with keeping population down, keeping disease down, and keeping people and animals safe.  Because of our laws against ‘running at large,’ our requirements to have basic veterinary care for the dog, I think it helps with population control and safety,” says Rem.

Plans change and we head toward Fairfield Acres neighborhood, where Officer Rem meets up with another officer to try and corral a loose dog.

Officer Rem attempting to corral loose dog
Credit Theresa Bettmann / KSMU

But after fifteen minutes their attempts are unsuccessful.  Officer Rem takes pictures to file a report and logs the call into his onboard computer. 

“I always try, and most of us try, when we pick up a dog to take it back to the owner—so the dog is back with the owner which is generally better than a shelter,” Rem says.

Rem worked animal control several years prior while a firefighter in Kansas. His love for animals brought him back to the job six years ago, in what Rem calls his “retirement career.”

Reporter: “What do you like best about your job?”

Rem: “Working with animals, and people too.  But animals are the most fun.”

Reporter: “What do you like least?”

Rem: “People,” he chuckles. “Some of the people are just very hard to deal with, but some of the others are a lot of fun.”

Rem says he has learned to become a good judge of character over the years.

“You learn to read the dogs—and people too.  I mean you have to watch the people.  I am more worried about the people that are going to go off on me and lose their temper.  I’ve had several people who I’ve had to call the PD on because they were threatening or going to attack me,” says Rem.

On board computer where Officer Rem logs all calls and daily activities during his rounds and follow up.
Credit Theresa Bettmann / KSMU

We arrive at the home of an elderly woman who reports to have been bitten by her neighbor’s dog. 

“Our role in a dog bite is strictly rabies control.  So we are going to quarantine the dog which is at the cost of the owner,” explains Rem.

Once the 10 day quarantine is over, the owner gets to take the dog home.  Rem says that what people often don’t realize is the dog is not automatically put down just because it has bitten someone.  Each circumstance is different, he says, and it is when they are repeat offenders that the courts may get involved.

“At that point they can file, with our help, a vicious dog hearing.  Once that happens then we will take the dog until the hearing and then it’s up to the judge what he wants to do with the dog,” says Rem.

A typical day begins around 8 a.m., says Rem, beginning at the shelter before heading out on calls. 

Today marks a special day; when the area rescues pull all adoptable animals from the shelter.  Latichia Duffy is with Halfway Home.

Volunteer with Halfway Home walking one of the dogs from the pound to the transport truck
Credit Theresa Bettmann / KSMU

“We’re here today to pick up the dogs that we have found rescue placement for.  They go back to our facility where we have them vetted, medicated and we board them until they move on via Rescue Warriors to their receiving rescues,” Duffy explains.

On this day, rescuers with Halfway Home take a dozen dogs back to their facility.

“We have about 80 different rescues that we work with nationwide and into Canada.  They see all of the pictures and information on the dogs here at the facility and they choose which ones will fit into their program.  We pull them out and go from there,” says Duffy.

Castaway Animal Rescue Effort or CARE is the other primary rescue who pulls from the pound.   They received their pulled dogs earlier in the morning, along with all seven cats.

Mackenzie, a seven year old black lab mix, is the pound’s beloved mascot.  He had been a stray whom the officers “adopted” to be their office dog and now helps with various education projects.  Each of the officers rotate who will take him home for extended periods.

This weekend, it’s Rob Rem.