What to do about a coyote on the Zakim bridge? This was the quandary faced a few years ago by Amanda Kennedy, director of animal care and control for the City of Boston. The coyote was exhausted from running in and out of traffic, and officers were afraid that the distressed animal would jump off the bridge and get injured. Kennedy decided the best plan of action was to lasso the coyote, wrap it in a blanket, and bring it to the rehab facility for examination. It wasn’t easy to capture the coyote, but eventually the animal was safely evacuated. This particular call for assistance was a bit out of the ordinary, but with a background in a variety of animal welfare settings, Kennedy, 44, is ready for anything. The Globe spoke with Kennedy about protecting animals in the Hub, whether it be checking for animal hoarding or curbing a barking dog.
Animal control is really about public safety. There’s the image of the dog catcher with a net over their shoulder, but we also provide education, law enforcement and assistance. With over 600,000 people in the city of Boston, we need to be able to meet the challenges of any animal-related call, and there are plenty. The majority of these are about dogs, but other times, it’s goats, chickens, snakes, or injured wildlife. Just today, we’ve taken in three stray dogs and reunited two of them with their owners. Other times it’s a turkey in the backyard, raccoon in the attic, or cat in distress. With eight animal control officers, five animal care attendants and a medical team at the City of Boston Animal Care facility, with any scenario, we figure out the best option. Officers are equipped with protective gloves, microchip-scanners to read embedded identity chips, stretchers, dog treats, slip leads, flashlights, and temperature readers for dogs in hot cars. We also carry bite sticks and pepper spray for our safety.The catch pole – long stick with a loop on the end – can have a 40 foot extension pole. Our division is part of inspectional services, and if there’s an animal hording issue, they call us. One of the saddest cases was an elderly woman with dementia whose whole house was literally disintegrating around her because of the ammonia levels of the cat urine. She was not feeding herself, but feeding the cats instead. We opened up the fridge and it was completely empty except for a can of cat food. Inside the cupboards were more cats. Cases like these show that ultimately, our main concern is about people, and not just animals, trying to get a better outcome for both. When I’m done for the day, it’s always nice to go home to my four rescue animals, Chevy, a gentle pit bull; Lola, a Shih Tzu mix; Tanja, a Bengal cat, and Big Cat, who’s called that because he’s big, of course. All my pets never give me insights into my job or help me solve dilemmas; Chevy just asks me to feed him more.”