Rewarding career in animal control

Former Dunedin City Council senior animal control officer Jim Pryde retired last month after 38 years of service. Photo by Jonathan Chilton-Towle.
Former Dunedin City Council senior animal control officer Jim Pryde retired last month after 38 years of service. Photo by Jonathan Chilton-Towle.
The Dunedin City Council's senior animal control officer Jim Pryde has retired after 38 years.

Mr Pryde started with the council in July 1976 as a hydatid control officer.

He was responsible for testing and treating dogs for hydatids, a tapeworm that could infect stock and humans, causing cysts and even death if left untreated.

Dogs were treated every six weeks with a pill, either with an applicator or in a treat, to break the hydatids life cycle.

One of Mr Pryde's colleagues was infected with the hydatid cysts and the operation to have them removed was filmed for training purposes.

By the mid-1990s, the hydatid strain capable of infecting humans had been eradicated, so the Government stopped funding the control programme.

Like other hydatid control officers, Mr Pryde became an animal control officer charged with upholding the new Dog Control Act.

Most of the job was educating dog owners on care and control of their dogs, he said.

''It's a career that I've certainly enjoyed. I've met a lot of good people involved with dogs. Most dog owners are very good but it's a bit of a disappointment that the minority of bad owners can spoil it for others,'' Mr Pryde said.

Potential dog owners had a responsibility to the dog that could last 10 to 15 years. They needed to choose a dog of a type and size suitable for their family.

They also had to make sure the dog was not a safety risk or a nuisance - and to comply with the ownership rules.

Most of the time, animal control officers responded to complaints, including aggressive behaviour, barking, or owners not picking up droppings. Usually, it was a case of getting the owner to understand how to control the animal properly.

Mr Pryde had to deal with escaped stock, accidents involving animals, and dog attacks. He did not believe recent years had seen an increase in dog attacks.

Attacks that did happen were given a lot of media attention. Mr Pryde recalled a recent incident where a young girl playing in a cul-de-sac was attacked by a dog, which grabbed her ponytail.

The girl had taken part in a dog-safety lesson at her school and knew to curl into a foetal position and protect her head. This allowed her to avoid serious injury.

Attacks that occurred in family environments could often be avoided with proper education and common sense, such as knowing to feed the dog away from family and especially young children.

Mr Pryde said animal control in Dunedin had been a team effort.

Now he had more time on his hands, Mr Pryde planned to travel, and spend more time with family out of town - and on the golf course.

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