Pet lovers who lose their “fur-babies” now have another resource to find them, thanks to the efforts of Palestine Animal Control officers and social media.
“Operation Home Again,” a Facebook page created by Animal Control Officer Michael Hart, aims to educate the public and reunite lost pets with their frantic owners.
Educational videos, low-cost veterinary information, plus a featured “pet of the week,” featuring an adoptable pet from Palestine's BARC Humane Society are a few of the features Hart intends to incorporate on the site.
“This is something I've always wanted to do,” Hart, 44, told the Herald-Press Thursday. “Working here with the city has finally given me the opportunity.”
A pet lover since childhood, Hart has three cats of his own. Formerly an owner of a trucking company before starting with animal control roughly three months ago, Hart said he's fostered pets for adoption for years.
Hart said people's impression of animal control officers is all wrong; although sometimes necessary, officers aren't interested in imposing fines on pet owners. They also do not want to simply drop off animals at the shelter – their goal is in reuniting pets and their families.
“When I find an animal, I'll go back to the same location three of four times that week,” he said. “I'll knock on the same doors, over and over, looking for the owners. I've got about a 75 percent success rate.”
Hart said information on recovered animals will be uploaded to the site in real-time. In order to curtail thieves who “shop” for particular pets, however, no pictures will be provided.
“We really want people to visit the Humane Society and see what they're all about, anyway,” Hart said.
Animal Control Officer Travis Berryhill, 30, told the Herald-Press although his job entails having to bring animals to the shelter, he'd rather it not be necessary.
“Pets don't want to go to the shelter,” he said. “They want to go home; anything we can do to make that happen, we will.”
To that end, Hart said he and Berryhill are trying to acquire “chip-scanners” that can read microchipped pets in the field.
“They would save both money and time,” he said. “If we catch a dog or cat, scan them, and find out they live just a few doors or a block away, the animal never has to go to the shelter.”
The problem with acquiring the Home-Again scanners, Hart said, is the price. At $400 apiece, it's not in animal control's budget at present.
“We're trying to raise the funds,” he said.
Hart and Berryhill said they are grateful for the help and support they've received from the Palestine Police Department and Chief Andy Harvey in their efforts to reunite animals with their owners, while lowering the number of dogs and cats at the shelter.
Harvey said the appreciation is mutual.
“I love that we have Animal Control officers like Michael and Travis that are passionate about animals,” he said. “They want to be more proactive in reuniting pets with their owners and better educate the public. This was totally their idea.”
For more information, visit the Palestine Animal Control Facebook page, “Operation Home Again,” or call 903-731-8443.
For more information on adopting animals, call BARC at 903-729-8074, or visit their website at: https://barctx.org/