Fitchburg Will Have New Animal Control Officer

November 10, 2017 GMT

FITCHBURG -- Starting Monday, the city will have a new animal control officer.

City Council unanimously approved the appointment of Todd Pickett who currently provides similar services in Leominster, during a meeting Thursday night.

“It’s a challenge and I like a challenge,” he said.

The appointment marks the privatization of a service currently provided by a police department employee -- Animal Control Officer Susan Kowaleski -- according to Police Chief Ernest Martineau.

In addition to the services conducted by Kowaleski, Pickett will also provide kenneling and animal inspection services, according to a proposal he submitted to the city.

“There’s going to be a drastic change in how we do business,” Martineau said. “We have to become more aware of the true duties and responsibilities of animal control.”

Pickett will replace Kowaleski who has served as the city’s animal control officer for over a decade. She will end her employment when Pickett starts on Monday, according to Martineau.

This fiscal year the city budgeted $106,280 for animal control and kenneling services, a sum which includes Kowaleski’s salary.

The proposal submitted by Pickett requests $105,000 annually with additional fees to the city charging between $5 and $20 for kenneling, euthanasia and disposal.

Martineau said the change makes fiscal sense.

“The services that we’re going to start receiving from Mr. Pickett -- I would almost have to hire another employee to do that (under the current system),” he said.

Martineau said privatization will mean around the clock service, which, currently, is not possible.

As a city employee, he said Kowaleski ends her day at 4 p.m., whereas Pickett will be on call and, for an extra fee, available after 11 p.m. for emergencies.

“We had a city employee working 8 to 4 with an abundance of vacation time, an abundance of personal time (and) no back-up,” he said. “We’re alleviating a lot of that going the route of privatization and hiring a company”

Ward 6 Councilor Jody Joseph noted past complaints regarding slow or missing paperwork on animals picked up by animal control.

Martineau said this could be attributed to Kowaleski’s schedule and contractual time off. He said Pickett will be expected to file reports with the city clerk once a month as required by city code.

Martineau went on to commend Kowaleski’s service given the obstacles.

“She has worked for the city for many years,” he said. “She has done an exceptional job with the tools that she has had.”

Pickett will also provide kenneling at his own facility which has space for seven animals. In the future he said he hopes to add a room for cats.

Since the Fitchburg Animal Shelter was ordered to close three years ago, Martineau said the animal control officer has had to individually find space to kennel dogs around the region. This combined with relaxed intake policies, that he says will change, meant dogs could be kenneled for months.

“Because of lack of kenneling we had been housing dogs for up to six months which is not the correct way to do business,” Martineau said.

Pickett will also conduct inspections of kennels and other animal related operations in the city, a service currently conducted by a member of the Board of Health.

In his proposal to the city, Pickett said he plans to hire a full-time assistant.

Pickett expects to continue his role in Leominster where he has provided services for four and a half years.

Martineau said residents needing services should contact Pickett directly starting Monday, not the police department.

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