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Animal Control looking for volunteers to free up ‘swamped' officers
It was 2:30 p.m. Tuesday and the Yuma Police Department Animal Control Unit juggled six calls for service at the same time.
Two officers were on duty but one was transporting animals from the department's temporary holding kennels to the Humane Society of Yuma.
The daily runs to HSOY are a big part of the day, taking officers off the street. Typically, officers transport animals five to eight times a day.
YPD assumed responsibilities for animal control within the city limits on Jan. 1. The unit's four officers have been overwhelmed with back-to-back calls, but the city won't be hiring more animal control officers in the near future.
“There are already budget concerns. We can't afford to hire another officer,” said John Allen, unit supervisor.
Many tasks being performed by officers, such as those runs, could easily be done by volunteers, Allen noted.
That's why the YPD Animal Control Unit is looking for community members interested in taking over some of the tasks, such as transporting animals, returning animals to owners, cleaning, general clerical duties, educating the public on animals laws, loaning out traps and equipment and licensing.
“They will be an asset to us. We have good officers but they are swamped,” Allen said.
The goal is to keep the officers on the road as much as possible.
In addition, with more people helping out, Allen hopes to open up licensing at the unit's office in the police department, while keeping the current methods at City Hall and online.
The unit is looking for volunteers who can serve a couple of hours a week or more, as part of the Volunteers in Policing (VIP) Program. If transporting animals, they will be riding in marked units and wearing a uniform.
Because volunteers are considered unpaid employees, they must be at least 18 years old and be able to meet all city and department requirements for employment: have a valid drivers license; pass a criminal background check, reference checks, drug test, a polygraph test (access to people's information) and a pre-employment interview; and complete required training.
Volunteers could include retirees with time on their hands who still want to keep active in the community, people who are considering a career in animal control and want to test it out and those who want to be more involved.
“It's a wonderful opportunity to serve the community if they have time,” Allen said.
Applications may be picked up at the YPD, 1500 S. 1st Ave., between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For more information, call the VIP coordinator at 373-4732 or 373-4700.
In addition, VIP meetings are typically held the second Tuesday of the month from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the YPD Community Room.
Mara Knaub can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.