by Jan ChristensenNick Reuland

Nick has been an Animal Control Officer with Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control for almost two years. He’s a familiar sight in Riverwest, both in his “civilian clothes” and nose ring, and when he has made his rather startling metamorphosis into “Nick the Dog Catcher,” in his navy blue uniform with the big silver badge. “Look,” he says, chuckling, “it’s got the Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin on it!” Nick’s happiest times are when pets and owners find each other again. And it happens a lot where he works. MADACC, or just “Animal Control,” as Nick prefers to call it (“It sounds less threatening,” he says), is the place where stray, lost or mistreated domestic animals are brought from all over Milwaukee County. The organization is funded by the municipalities it serves, Nick explained, not the County. Nick ReulandSometimes Nick’s job is scary. “There’s nothing like going into a house where there’s been a drug bust and trying to get twelve pit bulls out of the basement,” he says. “We get calls to assist police and fire departments, the sheriff’s department, the Department of Neighborhood Services, and the Red Cross.” If there are animals involved, Animal Control is on the job. Sometimes Nick’s job is sad. Animals are often hurt or mistreated, and Animal Control gets them to the Animal Emergency Room, or brings them into the Center for treatment. Animals used for illegal fighting often end up at Animal Control. In a recent case, 22 chickens were seized from a cock fighting ring. The “big dog” kennel has lots of pit bulls, some of them taken from dog fighters. Sometimes Nick’s job is just plain funny. The morning we talked, he had brought in five ducks that had strayed during the storm the night before. The day before that, two chickens. “Farm animals are domesticated animals, too,” he reminds us. “We’ve had pigs, goats, sheep, Guinea fowl…there was even a guy picked up for drunk driving that had a turkey in his car. No one seemed to know where he got a turkey, but there it was.” Some animals are picked up by Animal Control for safekeeping if their owners are evicted, arrested, or taken to a mental hospital. These animals with known owners are kept for longer periods of time, giving their owners an extra chance to reclaim them. Animals brought in by Animal Control are kept for seven days, then, if the Humane Society accepts them, they are taken there for adoption. The Humane Society cannot accept animals that have bitten someone or are sick. They also do not accept any wolf hybrids or pit bulls. Animals that are unadoptable or dangerous are euthanized by Animal Control. Some animals, including snakes, reptiles, and ferrets, go to “rescue agencies” set up for specific breeds. Some of the more exotic animals go to zoos, or agencies that rehabilitate them into the wild or use them for educational programs. “That’s what we do with the alligators,” Nick says. Alligators? Yes, they get about one per month. “It seems like the drug dealers really like alligators. And snakes.” He shrugs, grins. It’s a mystery. Nick sums up his attitude about his job this way. “We have to think about the animals, and what’s best for them.” Domesticated animals are here with us, living in the same space. They bring many of us a lot of joy and comfort. They’re our responsibility, and we need to help them stay out of trouble. It’s easy to be sentimental, but that’s not necessarily helpful to the animals or the people involved in a given situation. Nick isn’t sentimental. He’s realistic. He’s compassionate. Animals respond well to him, and he really cares about what happens to them. It’s comforting to know Nick’s here, thinking about the animals, and what’s best for them. Do you know someone who lives in Riverwest or who has had a positive impact on our neighborhood? We want your suggestion for unsung heros, quirky characters, and interesting people for our “Neighbor Spotlight”. Call 265-7278. Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 8 – September 2002
Nick Reuland