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The role of Animal Protective Services (APS) Officers at the Oakville & Milton Humane Society (OMHS) goes far beyond just picking up strays. In fact, they are contracted by the Town of Oakville to fulfill animal control services, including providing enforcement for animal-related bylaws as well as the Dog Owners’ Liability Act. They also respond 24/7 to calls for stray domestic animals in Oakville as well as conduct animal rescues for sick and injured wildlife in both Oakville and Milton.

Caitlin Jones has worked at OMHS for 11 years, the last three managing APS, and knows better than anyone how challenging and rewarding the work can be. During that time she has helped more types of animals in distress than she can recall, but counts the rescue of a peregrine falcon as a career highlight.

“Each day is different as we respond to calls on an emergency basis. It typically includes several rescues and stray pick up calls. At the same time we carry out proactive patrols throughout neighbourhoods in Oakville as well as responding to concerns for investigations under the bylaw,” explains Caitlin.

Caitlin and her team are trained to respond at a moment’s notice and face the challenges of being the first point of contact in dealing with animals in distress. To ensure the team establishes and maintains best practices, it attends regular in-class training seminars and courses. Most recently Caitlin received her Municipal Law Enforcement Officer certification.

When not rescuing animals, or picking up deceased wildlife from roadways in Oakville, Caitlin and her team of 10 ensure past rescues are documented, Town officials and the public are readily updated, and response vehicles continuously cleaned (and further enhanced in response to COVID-19). APS officers also investigate concerns reported regarding the standards of care for an animal under the bylaw. As needed they will connect with provincial animal welfare inspectors for more severe matters.

“Once we rescue an animal, we then rely on our amazing Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVTS), rehabilitation centres, volunteers and office staff and ultimately our donors. It truly takes a village to ensure all the animals we take in get the best possible care,” adds Caitlin.

To be successful Caitlin and her team depend a great deal on the support and understanding from the public on the services they provide.

“Every officer in this job does it because they have such a strong passion for animals that they have dedicated their career to helping them. We face a lot of heartbreaking scenarios that are often out of our control, and deal with limitations that sometimes result in members of the public becoming upset. We are transparent and informative when dealing with people and it’s important for everyone to understand that we are people too that are doing our best to help these animals in whatever way we can.”

She adds that one of the most effective ways dog owners can support her officers is by purchasing a dog license.

“Getting a licence makes our job getting animals back to their owners much easier and it’s a much better experience for the animal as well! A large portion of the proceeds of your dog license goes right back to funding the care of the animals in your community.”

When Caitlin does manage to find some spare time she likes to hike, spend time with her dog and create “household crafty items.”

APS officers are often called the superheroes of the animal welfare world for all they do. When asked if she could be a superhero what power she would most desire, Caitlin is all business. “I would love the power to duplicate myself. If I could be in two or more places at once it would be so helpful and very productive!”

While the day-to-day work can be grueling, there are always surprising moments that keep everyone in good spirts.

“I think one of the funnier memories I have was a swan rescue I did by the lake that was having neurological issues, recalls Caitlin. “I was with a partner and I successfully captured the swan, but I didn’t secure a wing properly so it was flapping and almost knocked me into the water [swans are very strong]. My partner had a good laugh at my expense, but I was still able to successfully, safely, and humanely contain the swan and get it to a rehabilitation centre for treatment.”

For Caitlin, one of the best parts of her job is completing rescues that can sometime stretch on for days. “My favourite memories are typically really satisfying rescues that involve the team. We work really well together and sometimes when there is an animal you have been trying to catch for several days and you finally are able to help it, it’s really a feel-good moment.”

“I am very thankful for my role because I can walk away at the end of each day knowing I have made a difference in an animal’s life in some way. It’s extremely rewarding and impactful and I feel it satisfies what means the most to me.”

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