By Lynn Davison
While you may think of her as the Town’s dog catcher, Karina Hilliard, the Town of Patagonia’s Animal Control Officer, is far more than that. Hilliard does pick up off-leash dogs, writes tickets, and brings them to the new animal shelter for owner pick up.
As well as picking up pets, Hilliard also helps owners find lost pets, and she also runs a trap-neuter-return program for feral cats. Since its inception, the service has neutered and released approximately 29 cats.
Another big part of the job is responding to a variety of wildlife related calls, from skunks, to snakes, to mountain lions, and more. The most common calls are about skunks. Four skunks captured in Patagonia this year have tested positive for rabies, according to Hilliard.
The Animal Control Officer also manages the shelter building and takes care of any animals who are there. That means cleaning the building and “individual apartments,” and ensuring the guests get two meals a day. Dogs get three daily walks.
Currently there are three dogs in residence, two large dogs waiting to go to a rescue center and one senior dog that she is hoping to reunite with its owner, as it was found wandering in the San Rafael Valley. A previously abused adult dog who had been there for two months, recently left for a rescue center and has since found a home.
Other animal control duties include taking reports on animal bites and determining whether follow up rabies shots for the bitee and quarantine for the biter are necessary. Knowing the animal’s health history is the key. Finally, there is making traps available for residents, and consultation with, and support for, her colleagues in the Marshalls Office, the Fire Department, and county and state agency staff regarding animal incidents.
Hilliard is a town employee, Officer 309, one of five officers who work for Marshall Joe Patterson. She was hired last September, works 10-20 hours week, and is on call 24/7. She can be reached by calling the Patagonia Marshall’s Office, 520-394-2091.
Hilliard “likes her job most of the time, although the people are sometimes harder than the animals,” she says. “Some just do not like interacting with law enforcement.” She has a great working relationship with all the other officers. “We back each other up whenever its needed.”
One of her favorite stories involves an incident she handled with another officer, Deputy Dan, where they were called to trap raccoons in a home attic. The homeowner had blocked the access point but was still hearing a lot of noise. The officers found four tiny raccoon babies, very hungry and very loud! They got the babies out and placed them in a release box outside the house where their mother was able rescue two of them. The other two were taken to a rehab center in Tucson and later released back in Patagonia.
In addition to her job as Animal Control Officer, Hilliard is a full time student at Cochise College, finishing her AS degree in biology. She plans to then complete her BS at the University of Arizona. Hilliard is also a volunteer at the Patagonia Fire Department where she is pursuing her EMT certification. She spends much of her spare time pursuing her interest in herpetology, providing rescue, rehab, and release as well as educating the community about snakes.