Animal Control Dept. flourishing under new ACOBy Mary Ann Price
Nadya Branca, the new animal control officer for the town of Canton, has made some changes at the Richard Stein Animal Shelter since she took on the responsibilities of her new role. She has moved furniture around, painted the walls, brought in a couch, and put screens in one of the entrance doors.
She has also added safety gloves, vests, and bigger nets to the equipment that she and part-time animal control officers Stacy Nee and Kevin Coffey use in their work with wildlife. The new nets were ordered after Branca responded to a call about two swans near the railroad tracks. One swan was rescued, but the officers were not able to catch the second swan, which was clearly injured, because the nets they had were too small to hold the bird.
“I’m not going to ever let that happen again,” said Branca, who promptly ordered the larger nets.
Responding to calls from residents about sick and injured wildlife is just one part of the job of the animal control officers. “We deal with stray and unwanted animals and care for them,” Branca said. “We run the shelter. We provide medical care and spaying and neutering. We do adoptions.”
Branca grew up on a farm and has always been around animals. She worked as a police officer for the town of Martha’s Vineyard and for Bridgewater State College, and spent seven years at the MSPCA in Brockton investigating animal cruelty.
“I loved the work, but it was time for a change,” said Branca, who became the full-time ACO last October after serving in a part-time role for about a year.
Nee joined the Canton office in November. “I had done the job part-time in Stoughton for a few years and really enjoyed it,” she said.
Nee and Branca have each rescued a muskrat, which they said are animals that can get stuck very easily in chain-link fences. They have also responded to calls about foxes, chipmunks, a homing pigeon, and a red squirrel. They send wild animals that can be rehabilitated to the New England Wildlife Center in Weymouth. The Trailside Museum in Milton rehabilitates birds of prey. Both organizations rely on donations to help them in their work with animals.
Coffey joined Branca and Nee in January. He did an internship with the police department and hopes to become a police officer.
“This is a way to get experience in law enforcement,” said Coffey, who was recently part of a team that rescued a horse from the mud near Ponkapoag Pond.
The three officers will answer calls dealing with a barking dog complaint, a bat in a resident’s home, a stray or unwanted animal on a resident’s property, or an unleashed dog with no owner on the scene. They have accepted 10 to 15 surrendered animals since last fall and expect to see the number increase as kitten season approaches. Last week, two cats that are sisters were turned in to the shelter because their family is moving and cannot take them to their new home.
The shelter relies on volunteers to help with the animals waiting for adoption. “They have such devotion to the animals,” Branca said. “They want to make sure they find a good home.”
The Council on Aging has organized visits by senior citizens who come one day a week to clean cages and give attention to the animals. Another volunteer created a Facebook page (facebook.com/cantonmaanimalshelter) with photos and videos of animals waiting to be adopted. Branca said that the officers strongly believe that cats that are adopted should be indoor-only cats.
Branca, Nee and Coffey will receive certification when they complete a ten-week animal control academy on May 26, which is offered through the Animal Control Officers of Massachusetts.
“I really love the wildlife aspect of it,” Branca said of her job. “I’m able to educate people about wildlife, and I love being able to provide a space for homeless and unwanted animals.”
“I do my best to educate people,” added Nee. “And I love the animals.”
“I enjoy the wildlife,” Coffey said. “And I enjoy talking with the community.”
Animal Control and the Stein Animal Shelter are now under the leadership of the Canton Police Department. Branca, who is married to Canton Police Officer Bill Branca, is also a special police officer for Canton. She is allowed to carry a gun and to charge a person with animal cruelty. The police department may call on her for help with other situations.
Officers from MassWildlife and the state Division of Epidemiology and Immunization will be at the Canton Safety Fair on June 2 to discuss rabies. Handouts will also be available.
The Stein Shelter, named in memory of the late Richard Stein, a former Canton ACO, has 11 cat cages, 10 indoor dog kennels, and 13 outdoor dog kennels. The cages were donated by June Knochin in memory of her son, Joshua Benjamin Knochin. The area where the cats are housed has a plaque dedicated to the late Peg Thurler, a supporter of the shelter. Cats and dogs can be boarded at the shelter.
The shelter is located at 150R Bolivar Street, behind the Department of Public Works. It is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Evenings and weekends are by appointment. For more information, call 781-575-6507 or go to town.canton.ma.us/animal/animalshelter/index.htm.
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