When Mark Meyer took the position as an Animal Control Officer at the Bakersfield Police Department, he knew the job duties could be unpredictable.
The 29-year-old Bakersfield resident, a former veterinarian technician at an animal hospital, goes to work and finds himself chasing wild turkeys, trying to trap a vulture, herding wild cats, hearing barking dog complaints, giving advice on animal care, and assisting police officers at a crime scene.
After four years on the job, Meyer admits that days do not look the same.
The varying tasks keep Meyer on his toes, and on his game, which is exactly what he wanted when he made the move into this career four years ago.
“I came to Bakersfield PD from working at an animal hospital where you didn’t know what was going to happen next, or what was going to walk through the door,” Meyer said. “We dealt with emergencies, dogs fights, animals hit by cars … it was an experience and I really liked it. I was good at handling it.”
Meyer was 23 when he took the job at the animal hospital, which he believed was a temporary position until he figured out what to do next.
But soon he went from kennel tech to veterinarian tech and then he found himself on the frontlines of emergency situations, working side by side with doctors saving the lives of animals. He loved the quick pace of an ER and how fulfilling it felt to care for the animals.
It’s a career he never saw coming, but now realizes fits him perfectly.
He made the move to Bakersfield Police Department’s Animal Control Department when he saw the job listing and realized he could use his experience to help the city’s animal population. While the role of an animal control officer can be seen as picking up stray dogs and cats, and dealing with the region’s urban wildlife, Meyer says the real role is to be an ambassador for the city’s animals.
“A lot of my job is being someone people can talk to about animals. After years of working with animals you can understand them by their face and body expressions. Ears back, they might be scared. Tail underneath, they may be feeling aggressive or scared … you just have to know,” Meyer said. “Sometimes we have to do welfare checks on animals, I have to explain to residents about tethering their dogs, and how much room they need to have. They need to be able to run around and have food close by. A lot of people get dogs on a whim and then don’t know how to take care of them.”
The Animal Control unit is a department within the Bakersfield Police Department, and the unit manages animal-related services and complaints from city residents. The unit averages about 12,000 calls per year and oversees:
- Cruelty cases
- Ensuring public safety
- Handling dangerous situations involving animals
- Rescuing stray and injured animals
- Reuniting pets with their owners
“This is a great job, and it’s eye opening to get to work alongside Bakersfield PD and see everything they do,” Meyer said. “Every day is always new, and that can be exciting. One day you are chasing a dog down the street and the next day you are helping someone from the community take care of an animal.”