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Human Interest

A passion for pets

Feather River Bulletin of Quincy, California

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Animal control worker tries to put herself out of a job

Perhaps it was inevitable that Melissa Bishop would become an animal control officer. During her childhood she shared her home with as many as 27 cats and 17 dogs.

"My mom was a bit of a hoarder when it came to animals," Bishop said. But her relationship with animals wasn't limited to her home; at 15, Bishop went to work for a shelter in Hayward.

Bishop was 16 when her mom died and life dramatically changed. Sometimes she stayed with her sister; sometimes she slept in a park — she liked the one across the street from the police station because she felt safer.

That sense of being without a home contributed to Bishop's decision to make finding families for animals her life's work.

"If you're an orphan, you know how these dogs and cats feel," she said.

Bishop became an animal control officer for Plumas County in 1996. "Within the first 15 minutes, I had five animals in my truck," she said. "I was always patrolling."

Her goal was to reunite pets with their owners or find homes for strays.

"I love my work; it's almost an obsession," she said.

But as much as she enjoys her work, she would be quite happy not to have a job if it meant that all animals were taken care of by their owners.

Sometimes people who spot a roaming animal will call

Bishop directly, and often she can match the wandering pet with its owner.

"I think it's from doing this for 19 and a half years up here," she said. "If one of my dogs went missing...."

And one of hers did. When she was living in Riverside 28 years ago, her poodle was taken from her yard.

"I never stopped looking for it," she said. "For as long as I lived there."

On a local Facebook page

— Quincy-Portola classifieds

— a surprising number of entries pertain to roaming dogs. People will post comments about where the animal was sighted and others will suggest possible owners. Inevitably Bishop weighs in on the site.

She admits that she regularly peruses the Facebook page looking for lost pets. "I'm a big believer in Facebook," she said. "Eventually we find the owner."

Bishop is not a fan of people who let their dogs roam, not only because they could wander into traffic and be injured or killed, but because they could cause an accident that could harm others. "There's a liability there," she said.

Also, if a dog becomes ill, it's impossible to tell a veterinarian what could have been ingested during the dog's travels if the owner doesn't know where the animal has been.

Bishop encourages dog owners to microchip and license their pets, or, at the very least, "use a Sharpie to write a phone number on the collar."

"A collar is immediate," Bishop said, which allows the person who found the animal to call its owner. Not only does this provide for a more timely reunion, it allows the owner to avoid paying impound fees and for board and care.

As of last week there were 14 dogs and a couple of dozen cats in the shelter awaiting adoption and Bishop is confident that they will find homes. "Feral cats and aggressive dogs are the only ones who don't get adopted," she said.

The shelter maintains a "want list" for individuals who are looking for a specific breed or category of dog. "We keep them on file just in case," she said.

The shelter is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but Bishop will meet individuals at the shelter Saturdays by appointment if she is available. It's worth it to her to work on her day off if she can find a home for another pet.



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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015



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