While catching up on paperwork early Thursday morning, Patrick Miller, supervisor of Animal Control in Aiken County’s Code Enforcement Division, is asked what he likes most about his job.
“Helping people is the most rewarding part of what I do,” he said. “It’s just human nature to feel good from giving back to the community and helping people out. That’s the highlight of all the officers’ days.”
Miller, who has been an animal control officer since 2013, is usually on the road taking calls from dispatch. On an average day, he is checking on stray dogs, livestock on the loose, nuisance complaints and potential pet neglect and abuse. However, since the crippling economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, community outreach has become an even bigger part of Miller’s day.
“COVID-19 has impacted County citizens a great deal,” he said. “More people are out of work and our community outreach has stepped up. I have a lot of folks right now who can’t afford gas. People sometimes say, ’Can you give us a hand with some food?’”
FOTAS helps by providing pet food, legal and humane dog runners and dog houses to the officers, which they then give to citizens in need. FOTAS also directly gives assistance through its partnership with Meals on Wheels, providing food for the pets of senior citizens.
Miller and his fellow animal code enforcement officers have to balance enforcement with community outreach. They must help out folks in need while at the same time protecting the welfare of pets and other animals that are neglected and abused.
“Part of our community outreach is explaining laws and helping folks comply to them,” Miller said. “I’d say about half of the people we talk to still do not know that dogs cannot be on a chain. That’s one of the biggest issues we deal with weekly – and FOTAS helps by getting us runner cables.”
Miller is well-respected by his peers and colleagues for how diligently he looks out for animals and his kindness to people and their pets. But he has seen enough neglect and abuse to last a lifetime and will not hesitate to rescue a pet from a bad situation and charge the offender accordingly.
“At the end of the day, what makes you feel good about your job is that you helped the animal and gave it a second chance at a good life,” he said.
Their lives are in our hands.