Ken Reid, the town’s animal control officer for more than 20 years, knows his days on the job are numbered.
And some members of the public are outraged.
A long-time friend, Anna Marie Warriner, called The Local, infuriated the town was not renewing Reid’s contract, and that nobody had the decency to tell him until he asked.
She went looking online for him and found a request for proposals that seems to indicate pretty clearly Reid is soon to be out a job.
She knows him to be kind, compassionate, thoughtful, a gentle and respectful man who loves animals, and goes out of his way to help people. He’s highly regarded by those who know him in the community, especially those who have required his services or had a beloved pet safely returned to them. Warriner was outraged that the town would want
to eliminate the job he’s had for more than two decades, first with his wife, Kea, and since her passing in 2016, on his own.
He typically gets a call to stop by the town hall and renew his contract, usually by Nov. 1, Reid says, but this year, when he didn’t hear anything, he went to the town and started asking questions.
“They haven’t told me anything officially yet. After 22 years, they haven’t even talked to me.”
Instead, a staff member said “they were going a different route, and I should check out the town’s website.” There he found the request for proposals he sees as directed at a humane society or some similar large, established organization, with staff and facilities to impound animals.
There is no way Reid’s one-man operation, with a few kennels on his property, could handle what the town is asking.
The proposal is for NOTL and Grimsby combined, and for services to begin Jan 1.
Other municipalities, including Thorold, Niagara Falls, Lincoln, West Lincoln, Port Colborne and Fort Erie, “may be interested in joining this joint proposal,” the town document states.
Reid is currently on duty from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, to pick up dogs and cats, road kill, and fulfill other services, such as responding to complaints, enforcing town bylaws, and writing fines, if necessary. He has kennels to keep animals overnight, but more often than not he is able to reunite them with their owners before that becomes necessary. “I’ve been doing this for so long, I know most of the dogs, and who they belong to,” he says.
At one time he and and his late wife Kea were paid by the call, and took them at all hours, but they were eventually put on salary, at about $40,000 a year, he says.
From the time he and Kea began working with the town, they would look for bylaw compliance through mediation, not by writing fines. If a dog got loose and they picked it up, they would return it to its owner, and he still follows that practice.
He just replaced his truck with something newer, that looks a little better for the job he’s doing, he says, and already has the Animal Control sign on the side, “but now I’m not going to have a job.”
After hours, calls currently go to the Niagara Falls Humane Society. If it happens to submit a successful proposal — Reid is speculating, given they already do part of the job — residents would have to drive out to Chippawa to pick up their pet, and pay a fine in order to get it back.
He suggests the services the town is looking for would likely cost about $180,000 — the town did not get back to The Local with an estimate of what it’s expected to cost.
The document describes a contractor required to capture and hold on to cats and dogs, confirm licences, and pick up and dispose of road-kill, employ sufficient, qualified and trained staff, and set traps to capture loose animals, including coyotes, on private property. It also calls for emergency services seven days a week, 24 hours a day. That includes assistance to any public agency, or member of the public, regarding the safety of any animal or the safety of any person who is in risk of harm from an animal.
And it requires, removing, impounding, euthanizing or otherwise disposing of animals which are found to be at large, injured, deceased, in immediate danger of injury or death, or pose a risk to the public.
The RFP says the contractor “shall also provide expertise to the parties in the development of a new animal care and control bylaw.”
About 10 years ago, Reid says, there was talk of putting the job of canine control officer out for proposals. Word got out, the community was outraged, and although the Reids had to apply for the job, they were hired. At that time they were taking calls at all times of day or night. But about five years ago, Ken was put on salary, and reduced to a 12-hour day.
What the town is looking for now is far outside the scope of what Reid would be able to do. When his contract ends Dec. 31, he’s not likely, at the age of 68, to be able to find employment doing something else, although years on the job have kept him fit and healthy, he says.
He acknowledges the job of a canine control officer is becoming a thing of the past, that smaller municipalities are contracting with larger organizations, or, as indicated in the RFP, partnering with other municipalities, “but more than anything, I find it pretty disrespectful that they didn’t tell me, that they didn’t have the courtesy to let me know.”