DOVER — Dog control moves to a Delaware enforcement unit on Friday.
The Division of Public Health’s Office of Animal Welfare’s Delaware Animal Services has been handling animal cruelty complaints and rabies control since September. Duties now will expand with an enforcement unit that will provide dog control services to New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties. With the expansion of services to include animal control, all animal law-enforcement services will be consolidated into one statewide unit.
In Wilmington, the city will continue to provide animal-control services through a contracted provider until June 30.
The state will have a team of 20 Animal Welfare officers who will respond to complaints of animal cruelty, incidents of human rabies exposure, and stray animals, including stray dogs, livestock, and seriously injured, ill or endangered stray cats.
According to Health division’s spokesperson Jennifer Brestel, the officers completed state Animal Control and Cruelty Certification Training, the Delaware Constable Academy through Delaware Technical Community College and field training with animal handling.
In December, officers also were trained in community policing techniques for animal control. The training focused on community-centric approaches to animal control to reduce pet relinquishment and prevent animal neglect through compassionate resources and education to animal owners in need of such services, Ms. Brestel said in the announcement.
“Our officers serve as pet ambassadors in the community to solve underlying issues that cause animals to become homeless or abused. Our ultimate goal is preventing cruelty to animals and animal homelessness, and training is critical to accomplishing that goal,” said Chief Mark Tobin, Delaware Animal Services supervisor.
“The public should expect that those enforcing animal welfare laws are highly trained and field-tested,” said Hetti Brown, director of the Office of Animal Welfare. “With the consolidation of animal control services at the state level, we had an opportunity to ensure all officers received consistent law enforcement and animal services training.”
Animals that need to be sheltered will go to the Chester County SPCA in Pennsylvania, which will operate shelters and kennels in Delaware. The SPCA was chosen by Animal Welfare in August.
The Animal Services office also will launch a program in early 2016 that aims to educate the public on how to prevent pet relinquishment and cruelty. The program will offer resources such as pet food and litter, dog houses and other animal care items to pet owners in need.
The Delaware General Assembly passed legislation in June to centralize animal control responsibilities within the state.
Residents wishing to report potential animal cruelty or an exposure to rabies through an animal bite or scratch can do so through the Animal Services hotline — 302-255-4646. After Friday, the hotline also will accept calls concerning stray or injured animals, or concerns about housing and care of animals. Non-emergency reports may be emailed to DelawareAnimalServices@state.de.us.
While calls will be received 24 hours/seven days a week, the in-house dispatch service hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays. After-hours emergency calls will be sent to on-call officers.
The new state website, AnimalServices.delaware.gov, will provide a Lost and Found Pet Registry. Photos and descriptions of all found stray animals will be posted in the searchable registry. A second phase, planned for later in 2016, will include updates to the Lost and Found Registry that will allow residents and organizations to post lost or found animals.
The revised website also will offer new options for purchasing dog licenses, reporting non-emergency animal cruelty and educational resources.