Dog Control

It’s a Dog’s Life

Although her job title is Senior Dog Control Officer, Vicki Harwood has also encountered the odd chicken, a few sheep, a goat or two, and some runaway cows in her travels – but that’s all in a day’s work for her and the team.

Vicki Harwood Senior Animal Control Officer

Vicki Harwood and her dogs Jackson, Frog, and Maggie

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Vicki has always been interested in animals, especially dogs, but said the best training she had for the job was managing pubs and bars because most of the work involves people handling skills, more than animal management.

“Our aim is to educate people so they can train and manage their dogs, so there isn’t a problem in the future. We encounter a few angry situations so the biggest challenge is learning to manage it, but also to try and avoid conflict at all costs,” says Vicki.

“Most of our calls are about dogs running loose, going through litter, barking, and acting aggressively, and whenever we get a call-out we check the dog’s registration too – which is much easier since micro-chipping was made mandatory for newly registered dogs in 2006.”

Vicki says she really likes the job, especially the variety, as she never knows what’s going to happen from one day to the next, but the best result is when an unclaimed dog gets adopted out.

“At least 50-60 of our unclaimed dogs in the pound get adopted out each year which is always a cause for celebration for us. We put all our adoption success stories on the Animal Services Facebook page, and that’s also where people can find out about any dogs we might have available,” says Vicki.

There are two dog shelters, the Moa Point shelter in Wellington, and the Lower Hutt shelter in Seaview, and they also work closely with the SPCA and HUHANZ.

Vicki has worked with the Dog Control team for nine years and really enjoys her job, not just because she likes animals, but because she really enjoys helping people too.

“One of the highlights for me is the free school visits we do for kids up to year 7-8. It’s a dog safety programme which teaches children how to behave around dogs, and what to do when dogs come near them. The kids learn a lot, and they’re lots of fun.”

Although dog control and education are the main aspects of the job, Vicki has encountered all sorts of animals on the job including injured penguins and other native wildlife which they take to the zoo. She has also had to deal with a herd of escaped bovine which made the news in 2013, and she’s witnessed the emotional reunion of a stolen dog with its owner.

“The job involves more life skills than qualifications, although there is lots of on the job training, and you can get some qualifications involving handling animals. Most of the time it’s more about us helping people than helping animals.”

Vicki, who was originally from the UK, moved to New Zealand with her Kiwi partner 10 years ago and not surprisingly has three dogs of her own, two Rottweilers and a Brussels Griffon called Frog.

If you’re interested in adopting a dog, or want to find out more information about the shelters, check out their Facebook page here.

The Council has many Bylaws and Policies that apply to dogs, all of which can be found on the Wellington.govt.nz website. You can also find information there about all the dog exercise areas in the region, and some of the restrictions that apply to the open areas, reserves, and beaches.