It's all about the dogs A visit with Jim Evans, Eureka's Animal Control Officer

Friday, November 2, 2012

He puts up with a lot of razzing. You can imagine the jokes: "Did you round up a lot of criminals today, Jim?" "Here comes the Dog Catcher." "Here, doggie, doggie, doggie" get the drift. Jim Evans endures the joking with good humor because he knows, when the tables are turned, the same people will come begging him to find their lost pet.

Jim Evans is not the Dog Catcher; there is no such title in today's police department. He is the Animal Control Officer, and his job is an important one. He makes every effort to help the animals in our community.

How does he do this? The job actually has many facets, and is more complicated than one might expect.

Contracted to the City of Eureka Springs, Evans answers to Chief Earl Hyatt of the Police Dept. It is surprising, but true, that for every call that the PD receives, Jim Evans receives four or five. His is an extremely busy position, and entails the rare ability to calm an upset animal while smoothing equally ruffled human feathers.

Jim Evans approached the Chief of Police three and a half years ago, after he noticed that the Animal Control position had a high turnover. He had always been very fond of animals, and was looking for a job that would allow him to serve his community. When an opening came about, he interviewed for the position and was hired.

He is paid to work a minimum of two hours a day, five days a week. In actuality he works much more than that. He drives his own vehicle, provides for his own vehicle maintenance, and pays for his own gas.

He enjoys the ability to work independently, while at the same time work as part of a team. He can't praise Eureka's dispatchers enough; it is through their efforts that the majority of the dogs he brings into "doggie detention" find homes.

This year alone his accomplishments include the fact that out of fifty stray dogs he kenneled at the PD, Evans found owners and returned thirty-three of them. He then was able to adopt sixteen of the remaining dogs out to new owners.

He took one more to the Good Shepherd shelter but euthanized not one dog. He checks on every dog he adopts, and has occasionally taken a dog back, when the home turned out not to be satisfactory.

"I have never had a problem with any animal," Jim states, "just with irresponsible people. If a person takes on any animal, they need to take total responsibility for it".

What does Jim mean by "total responsibility"? He means that the owner must spay or neuter, vaccinate, and license the animal. He also means that the owner must take care of the animal in extreme weather, whether it be extreme heat or extreme cold.

He means don't let a dog bother others, whether by running loose or barking excessively. Jim can advise any citizen about where to get an animal help, what the city laws require regarding animal ownership, and how to provide appropriate pet care.

He says repeatedly that he will do anything he can to make owning a dog a positive experience for both the animal and the owner. He believes strongly in education -- education about the needs of animals, education about responsible pet ownership, and education about licensure laws.

And what about cats? Evans has no place or means to hold stray cats, but if called about a lost cat, he will do everything in his power to find the cat and return it to its rightful owner. He is adamant that he is available to help any citizen of Eureka Springs with any animal problem they might have.

Another part of Jim Evan's job, one that is not so pleasant, entails giving citations to those citizens who are not being accountable pet owners. Citations can be given when dogs run loose, when there is constant barking, if an animal does not have a license, or when an animal is not being cared for.

An example of this would be if an animal is locked in a hot vehicle without fresh air or water. Citations run from $25 up to $75, plus $10 for each day a dog is held at the Police Department. Citizens who have animals removed from their custody due to cruelty or neglect must appear before a judge, who determines the fine and/or sentence accordingly.

Jim finds that the primary reason that people do not get licenses for their dogs is that they don't want to pay for the animal's vaccinations. Once again, Jim cites the need to be an accountable pet owner.

Evans occasionally is called to handle a sick or injured animal. In this case, he calls a police officer to put the animal down humanely. He does not carry a gun. Sometimes he is called regarding wild animals who have become a nuisance, usually a raccoon or opossum. He will then loan the person a "Have a Heart" trap, so the animal can be captured alive and transported out of town.

Jim Evans has been cussed at, called names, and had more doors slammed in his face than he can count. Still he perseveres in his effort to make Eureka Springs a wonderful place where humans and animals can live together in harmony. He is a testament to what one man, in a humble and demanding job, can do to protect and support our four-footed friends in their time of need. For animal control problems, call ESPD at 253-8666.

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