Breckenridge Texan

City of Breckenridge hires new animal control officer, makes changes at animal shelter

City of Breckenridge hires new animal control officer, makes changes at animal shelter
March 17
19:13 2022

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series on the City of Breckenridge’s Animal Facility. Click here to read part one.


By Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Several changes have been made at the Breckenridge Animal Facility following the recent animal neglect case at the shelter that led to a criminal investigation and the reported resignation of the animal control officer at the time.

Some of those changes include the recent hiring a new full-time Animal Control Officer, who has already started, and a part-time shelter employee, who is expected to start soon, said Breckenridge Police Chief Bacel Cantrell, who oversees the shelter operation. They’ve also implemented a new log-in system for people entering the shelter.

Breckenridge City Manager Erika McComis said she isn’t anticipating any additional big changes at the facility. “I’d just like for them to be their own entity and kind of work with rescue groups and the public and be able to do some adoptions and maybe hold some events, like I’m used to shelters doing,” she said. “You know, having someone come in and do the vaccinations and low-cost, spay/neuter events and just some events like that, and get the public more involved and be able to provide services to the public so they can care for their animals, too.”

New Animal Control Officer

Nicole Dooley is the new Animal Control Officer in Breckenridge. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

The Breckenridge Police Department hired Nicole Dooley as the new full-time Animal Control Officer for the City of Breckenridge. Although this is Dooley’s first time to work as an Animal Control officer, she has worked as a volunteer with the Stephens County Humane Society.

Dooley, who grew up in Breckenridge and graduated from Moran High School, has completed the basic Animal Control Officer training and is currently waiting to take her state licensing test.

In addition to making animal control calls in the community, Dooley also cleans the kennels, feeds and waters the dogs and keeps the shelter in working order.

Dooley, who said she enjoys being around the dogs at the shelter, said she follows the same routine each day to make sure the dogs are properly taken care of.

Cantrell said they’ve also hired a new part-time employee for the shelter but are still waiting on some background checks to be completed before he starts. Cantrell said the part-time employee’s responsibility will primarily be working at the shelter on the weekends and helping out on weekdays.

Regular hours for the shelter to be open to the public

Some local residents have asked if the shelter will maintain regular operating hours when it’s open to the public, for example, if someone wants to visit the shelter and see a dog they might want to adopt.

Currently, if someone wants to come out to the shelter, Cantrell says, they just need to call the Breckenridge Police Department and make an appointment to meet someone at the shelter. “You know, it’s an appointment,” he said. “I mean, anybody can call down, and we’ll meet them down here anytime.”

Cantrell said typically they only have one or two dogs, but when they do have more dogs, like they currently have, it takes about two hours for someone to come in the morning to clean the cages and feed the animals and a couple of hours in the afternoon. He said because of that, there is typically somebody at the shelter in the morning and in the afternoon. Additionally, the part-time employee will be there some on the weekends and for some evening work, as well as when the full-time animal control officer needs to be off.

Cantrell said he would like to see more nonprofit organizations come in and help out. “The Humane Society can place somebody down here if they want to, to be in the shelter seven days a week, and they can let people in. We just don’t have the staff and funding for that,” he said.

“The manpower is the biggest thing, and if the Human Society or the SPCA or any other nonprofit organization that we can get a contract done with, that wants to open these doors and set up here, that’s no problem at all,” he continued. “I have no issue around that. I don’t think anybody else in the city would have an issue with that.”

McComis said if the new part-time employee is hired as more of a shelter attendant, then they could probably look at some kind of set hours. However, she said if they’re going to being going out on calls, then it will be kind of hard to have set hours.

“So, it depends on once they get someone in there and kind of see what that role is, then we’ll determine it,” she said. “The shelter’s open. If no one’s there, then we can always call someone to go up there. So the shelter’s not closed; it’s open. But it just depends on if we have someone there; we can always have someone meet them there.”

How many dogs will be kept in the shelter and for how long?

There are 15 large dog runs (cages) which have indoor and outdoor access. Three of those cages are reserved for quarantined dogs. There are also eight small, 3-foot-by-3-foot kennels. Cantrell said that leaves 12 runs and the eight small kennels available for housing dogs on a regular basis.

“And so, you know with one person, 12 or 14 dogs is about max,” he said. “I mean, that’s all we’re gonna be able to handle, and that’s all we have the room for. You know, we don’t have kennels just everywhere.”

Cantrell said the city policy states that, after the dogs have been in the facility for five days, they belong to the city and can be euthanized. However, he said, they have been very fortunate recently and have only had to euthanize dogs that have been aggressive, mostly aggressive toward people, but also a couple that were aggressive to other animals.

He said they have been fortunate because they’ve been able to keep their numbers low and can house the dogs for a bit longer. He said during the COVID-19 shutdowns, when people were staying home, people were adopting a lot of dogs, but it really slowed down after people went back to their regular routines, which he said is happening nationwide, not just in Breckenridge. So now, the dogs end up staying at the shelter much longer. For example, he said, some of the dogs at the shelter now have been there since November and December.

“I know you have to draw that line; you’ve got to euthanize some animals,” Cantrell said. “I mean, we’re not a no kill (shelter). There’s no way around that. We got to make those decisions. But unless we get crunched for space, you know, we’ll do the best we can with what we’ve got.”

Cantrell said he hopes that whenever Dooley gets all of her animal control testing out of the way, she’ll have time to take some courses on animal adoptions and look into those types of things and they can start branching out.

McComis echoed Cantrell’s sentiments and said that she also hopes that once Dooley has had a chance to get settled into her job and get more experience that she will be able to reach out to other animal shelters and animal control officers about how they operate.

“And that’s kind of how you learn, is reach out to others that have been in the industry for a while and see how they work and get their resources and ideas from them. And so she’ll be doing a little bit more of that in the future. And so we’ll work towards that.”

Security Cameras at the Shelter

Cantrell said there are cameras at the shelter and they work.

“All the cameras work,” he said. “I think there’s…six or seven cameras, a hard drive, and we got three or four days of feed on the cameras.”

Cantrell said the cameras were originally installed to prevent people from coming down and stealing their dogs out of the kennels and that type of thing.

Working with the Humane Society

Cantrell said the animal control department has always tried to have – and wants to continue to have – a good working relationship with the Stephens County Humane Society.

“I have always had the stance of working with the Humane Society since day one,” Cantrell said. “We have gone out there and picked up animals from the vet for them. We’ve transported animals within the city for them, from (point) A to B and from a house out to their kennels. We’ve housed animals here for them…we’ve housed animals here from them since this incident.”

For example, on the weekend of Feb. 26, Dooley transported several dogs to Eastland, where she met a member of another volunteer animal group that was taking the dogs out of state so they could be adopted.

“And we’ve done that numerous times before,” Cantrell said. “Anything that they’ve asked for, that we can do, were going to do, because…we have a goal and objective, and we gotta make sure that we stay together on this. And my stance has been that way since day one.”

One of the new procedures at the Breckenridge Animal Facility requires everyone who enters the building to sign the log-in sheet. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Cutline, top photo: As the City of Breckenridge’s new full-time animal control officer, Nicole Dooley responds to calls about animals in the city and takes care of the dogs at the shelter. A part-time shelter employee is scheduled to start soon to work on weekends, as well as some during the week. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)


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