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Animal Control to gain permanent home in new police station

September 28, 2018

The City of Columbus’ Animal Control will be moving to a new permanent location inside the new police department once it’s constructed.

Animal Control is a division of the Columbus Police Department. Shawn Flowers, the lead animal control officer, said the office has been housed away from the rest of the department and moved periodically over the years. But with the construction of the new police department at the corner of 14th Street and 23rd Avenue, Animal Control will finally have a permanent home.

The project was a result of a $16 million bond approved by voters this year to provide new housing for local fire and police departments. The new facility is slated to be up and running by the summer of 2020, as previously reported by The Columbus Telegram.

Animal Control was previously housed in the former site of the Gene Steffy Ford building, which was torn down to be used as the site of the new police station. It has since been located at 1461 25th Ave. for the last two years.

Flowers said he hopes the move will help with the quality of the division.

“It helps with stability. You never know from the next day to the next day if you’re going to be moving someplace else,” he said. “It’s time-consuming because then we have to pack everything and then unpack everything. I’ve condensed a lot of our stuff down and with moving I’m going have to condense it more.”

Charles Sherer, Columbus’ police chief, said the fact the division was always housed outside of the station made those involved with it feel like a distant cousin.

“I feel for their instability,” he said about Animal Control constantly moving. “I think giving them a home will give them a sense of belonging in the department.”

Once reunited with the rest of the police department, Animal Control will be able to share the department’s printer, fax machine and storage areas. Flowers said the division will also be able to use the new station’s interrogation room for interviews and that the new facility will be safer.

Flowers said members of the three-person division have felt uncomfortable and awkward working in the building alone on the weekends, as there are no safety precautions. He said he’s heard about incidents in the past where people would barrage right into the office and scream and yell at the officers. The new facility will have people be buzzed in order to get past the lobby.

“We’re not really protected, and that’s always been somewhat of a concern,” Flowers said. “A lot of people, they don’t want to be told what to do with their kids, and they don‘t want to be told what to do with their pets, because a lot of people consider their pets as kids. So it’s a touchy subject.”

Denise Palmer has been an Animal Control officer with the department since May. She said the move will help improve working conditions for Animal Control.

“I think it will be a plus for Animal Control, being able to be with the other police officers in the same building and having our own stable location, she said. “We’ll be able to communicate better with the officers when we’re not on duty and they do the animal control stuff for us. It’ll give us a better communication line.”

Palmer said the division’s current space is a bit tight and her desk had to be put in the hallway.

“Well, it’s a little cramped, considering, you know, I’m in the hallway,” she said. “It works, but it would be nice to have, you know, something just a little more connected (to the police department).”

Animal Control enforces the city’s animal codes and is responsible for handling cases on animal abuse and issuing licenses for pet cats and dogs. Flowers said he strives to improve the work of the division and make life better for animal owners within the city.

“I have a whole list of ordinances that I want to change, just to try to make things easier for the public,” Flowers said. “Because we’re not here to beat you up, we’re just here to protect the community, protect the animals”

Flowers said the department will remain the same size in terms of staff after the move and doesn’t foresee them shrinking or growing.

“Animal Control has always been a part of the (Columbus) Police Department,” Flowers said. “Once we move into the (new) police station, we know we’re home.”

Eric Schucht is a reporter for the Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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