Sunday, November 10, 2013

For the love of animals and the job - By Jim Beers (updated)

For all animal and pet owners, their animals are viewed like children of the family. Losing one or having one harmed is the worst possible scenario. Luckily for Windham residents, they have a caring, dedicated animal control officer, or ACO. Joe Payton, a 22-year-old Casco resident, is relishing the challenge his job brings. "I have two loves,” Payton said, “animals and law enforcement, so this position is a perfect match for me. I have a lot of time invested in both." 

On the job for two years now, Payton first fell in love with this field as a vet-tech. Doing that for three years gave him the experience to go after a job like this, he said. "In those three years I fell in love with the welfare of animals and wanted to make a difference with them going forward," he said. Working out of Windham's Police Department at 8 School Rd. in Windham, Payton is the lone animal control officer for the town. Although his schedule says 40 hours a week, he routinely goes way over that mark. In 2012, Windham's animal control office handled 833 calls. Payton rotates his work weeks throughout the year, Monday thru Friday, then Tuesday thru Saturday. Off-duty officers will take calls and make reports for Payton on his days off. "It can be time consuming,” he said, “some calls are informational, some go unfounded, but the majority of the time I have a chance to make a difference with an animal."

Payton's busiest time of the year is in the summer. "There are just more animals and pets out in the summer,” he said. “Vacation people, summer homes, state parks, campgrounds...nicer weather in general." He has to be extra vigilant in the summer months as it is a dangerous time for animals and pets. Payton sees more calls in these months, than any others. "You will see me parked in front of Walmart, Hannafords and Shaws stores in the summertime so that I am visible and it will keep the awareness constantly up,” said Payton. His number one call to deal with during the summer is still animals locked in cars with the windows either not rolled down at all, or not enough. "Every year it's the biggest problem," Payton said. So much so, he has printed notices that go on every store door in Windham, to remind people of the danger of leaving your animals and pets in a car when the days are at their hottest.

In addition, officer Payton has many more responsibilities as Windham's ACO. With his mission clear--to protect the welfare of all animals--Payton primarily deals with domestic animals. However, he also handles farm animal calls, wild animals and assists Maine's Game Wardens when the situation calls for it. During one call where Payton was helping the Warden Service, the cable TV show North Woods Law was filming at the same time and shot many scenes with Payton in them. He's pretty confident some of those scenes will make it onto an upcoming show this season. "It was really cool to be on a call with the Game Wardens and have North Woods Law filming us," said Payton. "They were telling me these scenes would be on a future show, so that's pretty exciting."

When Payton isn't out on a call, he is constantly looking at the animal laws and understanding how they work, and how he can make them better for the Town of Windham. "The laws pretty much stay the same. The Director of Animal Welfare for the state works on clarifying the existing laws for ACO's around Maine," he said. By working with the director on improving animal control laws, for example, Maine's ACO's are able to trap feral animals that aren't indigenous to Maine, allowing Payton more power to do his job. Payton's duties range from dog licenses, animal cruelty cases, rabies tags, rabies vaccines for cats, dogs at large, stray dogs, reimbursement for damage done by dogs, damage to livestock or pets by dogs, cruelty to birds, trespassing animals to working miracles for the residents of Windham.

That brings up what Joe calls his most successful, happy ending case to date. On October 15, 2013, a Tuesday, Windham resident Laurene Dumond had two dogs go missing from her property, a beagle and a wiemaraner, who has leukemia. Luckily, the Beagle was found that night. As the week went on, animal control officer Joe Payton was called on to see if he could help. On Saturday, Payton, along with Dumond and her two young daughters, set out to find the wiemaraner, using the beagle to help track the missing dog. 

"This man walked many hours,..many miles through the woods. He went above and beyond the scope of his duty," Dumond said. Payton, with help from the beagle, tracked the wiemaraner all the way to Methodist Road in Westbrook. "It was a last chance thing,” said Payton. “We had been out there all day and were about to turn around and head back when I noticed the dog through the trees in the woods. It was the ending everyone was hoping for." Dumond was overwhelmed by Payton and his care for her animals and his job. "Honestly, he impacted my daughters in such a positive way. He remained calm even though at times we had no clue where we were. We are so thankful to have him in our town," she said.

That's the way officer Payton would have every call turn out if he could. This young man's love of animals has him in the right position to make a difference. 

"We do care about every resident's pets, he said. All animals in town are taken very seriously and we work diligently to solve problems. We make every effort to get them home." From hours spent looking and finding lost animals or pets to staying with them at the veterinary hospital after they are injured to saving them from a hot vehicle or abuse, Windham Animal Control officer Joe Payton's value to the department and town is immense. Look for him on an upcoming show of North Woods Law, he's really excited about that!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your Comments Help Improve Your Community.