Albany -- The Albany Animal Control Department is desperately shorthanded, with only one person working in the unit to cover the entire city. Animal rights activists say that puts pets in Albany in danger.
Diane Benford and a friend rescued a female bird dog, Sweetie, and her five puppies last week. They were starving in woods on a busy Albany road after being abandoned. Benford said friends who had spotted the dogs called animal rights volunteers, because they knew Animal Control was shorthanded.
Those volunteers are part of a group known as PACK: Promoting Attitudes, Alliances and Actions Consistent with Kindness for all Animals.
"She's filled out a little, but you can still see what she looks like. So she was in pretty bad shape," said Benford.
Albany Animal Control has lost all but one of their officers because of illness or resignation. PACK members say that puts the community in danger, both people and pets. PACK Government Affairs Chairperson Laurie Jenkins said "We need animal control officers to insure the well being of animals."
The City Animal Control Unit is usually made up of four drivers and a supervisor. But now trucks sit idle, with only the supervisor on duty. Jenkins said those officers are needed to patrol for mistreated animals.
"If he is confined, that he is not on a heavy chain, has proper shelter and care. That's part of the ordinance and one driver can not do that and follow up on these cases."
Albany City Manager Al Lott said "we can understand the concern of the Animal Rights Activists. I too consider myself to an animal rights activist."
Lott said they are working quickly to fill out the Animal Control Unit, scheduling interviews and gathering applicants to fill those open slots, but it's a hard job to fill. "There is a small pool for public safety people, and in particular animal control folks, because that is such a small niche," Lott said.
Benford said she was glad she could rescue Sweetie and her puppies, but she feels Albany needs to fill those animal control officer positions soon, to protect man's best friend.
City officials say they are accepting applications for animal control officers now. PACK members say the best way to alleviate animal suffering is to spay and neuter pets, and report anyone seen abandoning or mistreating a pet.