Teresa Osborne's busy job as an animal control officer at Leavenworth Animal Control has been the ideal occupation for a woman who describes herself as an animal lover who has a passion for wanting to help people and animals in the community.

By RIMSIE McCONIGA
rmcconiga@leavenworthtimes.com


Teresa Osborne’s busy job as an animal control officer at Leavenworth Animal Control has been the ideal occupation for a woman who describes herself as an animal lover who has a passion for wanting to help people and animals in the community.


This two-year rescuer at Animal Control says it’s hard to estimate how many animals she picks up each week. Every day is different.
“I like to be able to locate an owner right away and return them if possible,” says Teresa. “It is truly such a variant but if I had to try and give an average I would say maybe three to four.”


Although truly “stray” dogs who live on the streets with no owner are rare, she says that dogs running loose within the city limits are technically considered strays, but the majority of them have owners and somehow become separated from them or have wandered away from their homes to check something out.


“We have no city ordinances regarding cats, however in certain situations such as an injured cat we will pick them up if they are not owned,” says Teresa. “We also pick up a great deal of wildlife, such as opossums, raccoons, snakes, reptiles, pretty much any animal that has wandered somewhere it should not be, such as inside someone’s garage. Or if it has been found wounded.”


Although Animal Control doesn’t pick up stray/feral cats, it does loan traps so that people can catch an animal and take it to the shelter.
“I do believe that the Leavenworth Animal Welfare Society is doing an amazing job with their help in keeping the pet population down,” says Teresa. “They are a wonderful organization that is doing great things for our community.”


As far as catching stray or wounded animals, Teresa says it’s about 50/50. While dogs prove to be easier since they can be persuaded by food or treats, sometimes gaining their trust can be very time consuming. Some attempts can take hours.


“Wildlife on the other hand, can be another real challenge,” says Teresa. “Raccoons for instance never want to go willingly, and they are very slick when it comes to using their little hands to throw off a catch pole or a net.”


She has never been bitten by one of the animals, but capturing an aggressive dog or cat can be challenging. A catch pole is her best friend.
“With a catch pole we are able to keep distance from the dog and still ‘leash’ it,” she said. “The pole itself is stiff so that we are able to control the dog from a distance without hurting the dog or ourselves. For cats, if they are very aggressive, we have a net that we can get the cats inside without injury.  But if we are able we will simply take hold of the cat by the scruff of the neck (like a mother cat carries its kittens) and usually that will stop a cat from fighting so that you can place it in a carry kennel.”


Teresa says one of the biggest problems in the area is dogs not being leashed. Although people don’t think it’s a big deal, she says it’s very important for not only the safety of the dog, but also for community members such as people who are trying to enjoy a safe and stress-free walk in the parks or on the trails.
“An unleashed dog is vulnerable to being attacked by another animal, there is always a risk of the dog going into the road and possibly being hit by a car or causing a traffic accident from someone trying to avoid hitting the dog,” says Teresa. “And truly, even the best, well-behaved dog might have something trigger it to take off or attack another animal. This is a perfect example of why it is so important, even if someone is just stepping out the front door with the dog unleashed. We had a citizen walking their dog on a leash, another person stepped out of their house across the street and allowed their dog to go out to the front lawn to potty. The unleashed dog spotted the dog on the leash across the street and ran over and attacked the leashed dog. The owner had no previous issues with this dog being aggressive. The owners of both dogs were bitten in the altercation, the leashed dog was significantly injured and the dog that was unleashed is now deemed a dangerous dog. It could have all been avoided by simply keeping control of the dog at all times, even if you are stepping out with the dog for just a minute. You just don't know how fast something can happen. I could honestly talk about this subject for hours it is so important to keep control of our pets.”


The rescues and shelters in the area pour their energy into controlling animal over-population, but there is still no shortage of animals waiting for permanent homes. Teresa believes that spay/neuter is a must for pet owners. She also encourages people who are looking to adopt to check with shelters and rescues first so as not to encourage backyard breeders or puppy mills.


Teresa is the proud companion human to three cats, Jazzy, Lulu and BooBoo. She also has a 55-gallon aquarium with neon betas.
“BooBoo came into the shelter with a litter of four with no mama, his siblings all got adopted and he quit eating,” she said. “I was worried about him and decided to bring him home to make sure he was eating. My husband fell in love and I was already won over so we chose to adopt him. He is a big boy now and doing amazing. He stole my heart immediately.”


She says she tries not to get attached to the animals she picks up, but it’s very difficult for her not to because, “sometimes they just steal your heart from the get go.”


While capturing animals and transporting them to safety is challenging, for Teresa, witnessing the results of cruelty and neglect is heartbreaking.
“It never gets easier to see any animal suffering,” she said. “But almost all of the animals return home, get adopted or thanks to the wonderful volunteers we have, many also get moved to other rescues.”


The recent honorary celebration in April, Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week, saluted people all over the U.S. who, like Teresa, save animals who are desperately in need of help.


Seeing the transformations in the lives of the animals Teresa rescues makes her job very satisfying.


“To see the ones who have been neglected or mistreated come alive and start to thrive with the care they receive and then move on to their forever homes is rewarding. It is also very heartwarming to know and see that there are people who are willing to step up and adopt a dog or cat that has been abandoned, abused or neglected. It boosts my faith in humanity. The best part of my job is the happy endings – and of course kitten cuddles.”