Our Wellington

News | 14 July 2021

Animal Control Officer – the pawfect job

Vicki Harwood’s life revolves around one thing and one thing only – dogs. She’s fostered more than 100 kurī over the years, her favourite being a wee Griffon named Frog.

Vicki Harwood with a blond ponytail and sunglasses on her head, looking down smiling at the dog she is holding, with two people surrounding her patting the dog, which is tan and white-coloured and wearing a blue pet coat.

She confesses she doesn’t really have any other hobbies, and spends pretty much all her spare time exploring Wellington’s trails with her beloved furry friends, including Elsa, who she adopted from Wellington City Council’s Moa Point animal shelter.

This is where Vicki works as a Senior Animal Control Officer. On a Monday morning not long after her shift begins, in comes a call about a dog owner who’s been bitten by a rushing dog in an on-lead area. Fortunately, attacks in Wellington are relatively rare, Vicki says.

Next on the agenda is following up on some noise complaints, barking coming from a property where no dog is registered. No one is home, so a friendly note with Vicki’s contact details is left on the doorstep.

A laughing Vicki Harwood with a blond ponytail and navy blue t-shirt, holding a white and tan-coloured medium dog wearing a blue pet coat and licking her ear.

Responding to roaming dog reports is another common occurrence, but when she’s not doing any of the above, Vicki is busy finding new homes for unclaimed or surrendered dogs that would make suitable pets.

A four-month-old pup hasn’t been claimed from the Lower Hutt animal shelter after seven days on site, and therefore, under the Dog Control Act 1996, ownership of that dog has now been transferred to Animal Services. Lower Hutt and Wellington have a shared Animal Services contract.

Vicki collects the playful little Bearded Collie, who’s been named Ash, and he’s taken back to Moa Point where he’ll stay in the newly upgraded facilities until he’s adopted out.

She says the Moa Point animal shelter is never very full, as Wellington has an impressively high reclaim rate and many responsible dog owners.

A smiling Vicki Harwood with a blond ponytail and sunglasses on her head, in navy blue t-shirt and pants, kneeling down in front of new black and yellow cage doors with a chocolate-coloured medium dog on the other side licking her hand.

Another large part of the job for Vicki is education – both for dog owners about their responsibilities, and school children about staying safe around kurī.

Before joining the Animal Services team 16 years ago, Vicki managed pubs in England, where she is originally from.

“People often think this job is all about dogs, but really most of it is dealing with people. That’s where my skills from the hospitality industry have been really useful.

“We deal with everything from fluffy adoption stories to being called every name under the sun. We’re dealing with people’s dogs and that can be very emotive. The trick is not to take things to heart.”