Jan 20, 2013 01:14PM
● By Lisa Drake
Lori Rodriguez, Animal Care and Control Manager
Tales of adoption tug at our heartstrings. The stories reveal a kindness and compassion and a deep love for others. Adoption offers a fantastic way to build - or add to - a family. Perhaps not so surprisingly, it’s also a great way to bring a new pet into the family. And that’s one of the primary services Mansfield’s Animal Care and Control shelter offers.
Though small in size compared to bigger city shelters, the Mansfield shelter is remarkably adept and diverse in what it can do. The facility offers animal rescues, pet adoptions (including a mobile adoption unit) and provides low cost microchips that help pet owners keep track of their animals. The shelter also handles stray, sick and injured animals, nuisance and bite complaints and more.
The current facility was opened in 1996 and can house up to 46 dogs and 12 cats while also allowing space for quarantined animals. It’s publicly funded and managed by the Mansfield Police Department. The shelter consists of three main buildings - a lobby, a stray building and an adoption building. There’s even space in the back for livestock. It’s all kept running by a dedicated staff - including a kennel tech, a receptionist, three animal control officers, and a part-time kennel tech. Heading up the efforts is Lori Rodriguez, who has been the animal care and control manager in 2011.
We talked to Rodriguez late last fall and she provided tremendous insight into the inner workings and daily activities at the shelter. “We (the shelter) play an important role in helping resolve all kinds of animal related issues and in helping place homeless pets with new owners,” she proudly says.
LEADER OF THE PACK
Rodriguez grew up near Aledo and says she has always been around animals. She had a difficult upbringing and was raised primarily by her grandparents. But they instilled in her a deep-rooted work ethic and a determination to always get the job done. It’s something she is teaching her own children today. “I am trying to teach my boys that if you want something and work hard you can achieve it no matter what is thrown at you,” she says.
“I am pretty fortunate having been able to work around all kinds of animals for most of my life,” she says. After adopting a dog in 1999 she began working at the Humane Society of North Texas. From there she moved to the Fort Worth Animal Control in 2001 where she served as an animal control officer until 2003. She says it was such a large shelter and a constant influx of animals that she experienced burned out and left. But that didn’t last long. Later in 2003, she took a part-time job at the Mansfield Animal Care and Control shelter as a kennel tech/receptionist, was promoted to animal control officer in 2004, senior animal control officer in 2006, and became animal care and control manager in March 2011.
“I never had any formal training for this line of work but it has been constant training on the job ever since.” And it’s a busy job.
ON THE JOB
Rodriguez says every morning at the shelter begins with the staff encountering “strays or surrenders. The officers head into the field to take care of any calls that have come in. Our kennel techs start cleaning early and getting the dogs outside for their morning breaks. We start getting people in to look at the shelter animals for adoption or to reclaim pets,” she says.
The constant influx of stray animals does put a strain on the shelter’s resources. That’s why Rodriguez emphasizes to people that they should have their pets spayed and neutered because there simply are not enough homes for all the animals out there. “We hear a lot that ‘it's okay because we found homes for all of them.’ That may be true but how ever many animals you just gave away took a place away from an animal that was already looking for a home.”
At the end of the day Rodriguez remains dedicated to the animals. “We spend time getting to know our shelter animals and making their lives here pretty good. We try to treat every animal here like we would our own pet.”
That is a noble cause and a great legacy for all those who work and volunteer at the shelter.