20 Questions: Jefferson County Dog Control

A Dog Control Officer plays with the five puppies of the recent litter of one of the four dogs rescued in Watertown in the largest rescue case of 2018.

Joseph Plummer has transitioned into a new role in Jefferson County, director of dog control. NNY Business sat down with Plummer to discuss the role Jefferson County Dog Control plays and how the shelter plays a role in family pet adoption. 

NNYB: You recently took over the position of Director of Dog Control in Jefferson County on top of your current role as Director for Jefferson County Office of Fire and Emergency Management. Was the transition easy to make?   

PLUMMER: Coming into a whole new field that I had to learn, the transition has been going very well. Jefferson County is very blessed to have such great employees at Dog Control and they are the key to our operation. They have made my job very easy and educational!!  

NNYB: What is the mission or objective of the Jefferson County Dog Control and Shelter?   

PLUMMER: Our Mission is twofold, it is first to take in and care for strays and abandon dogs, and victims of dog cruelty cases nursing them back to health until they are adopted. We are also required under NYS Ag & Markets Law to enforce local, state and municipal laws.  

NNYB: How has this mission or objective changed throughout the years?   

PLUMMER: The Misson over the past 40 years really has not changed however the field of Dog Control has expanded as population expands, which comes with challenges of trying to be the most productive for the minimal cost to the Towns, Villages and the City of Watertown that we serve.  

NNYB: Dog Control and the shelter were on the brink of closing about a year ago. How has the organization bounced back from that?   

PLUMMER: With our dedicated staff, they have helped us reduce the cost of the operation without decreasing services. They have worked hard through the transition and made the facility and the job much more pleasurable. I truly believe that staff looks forward to coming to work every day and providing excellent service to the Towns, Villages and City we service.  

NNYB: What is the agreement that you have with the 15 towns in Jefferson County and the City of Watertown?   

PLUMMER: The agreement is to provide Dog Control services to the 16 municipalities who have contractually agreed for this service with Jefferson County. Dog Control responds to these municipalities for loose dog reports, also perform a dog census on a yearly rotating schedule to ensure dog are licensed and vaccinated as well as assist Law Enforcement with vicious dogs and injured dogs when requested. At the shelter staff truly offers “T.L.C” to all dogs that come into our shelter.  

NNYB: Dog Control and the shelter provide education to residents of Jefferson County, what are some of the ways you share this information to residents?   

PLUMMER: Educational events we participate in include the Jefferson County Fair, Career Jam and various other public educational opportunities as requested by however depends on availability of staff. We also provide numerous rabies clinics throughout the year for the public to get their animals vaccinated.  

NNYB: Dog Control of Jefferson County provides many services to residents like door-to-door licensing of all dogs in the county. What are some of the other services that your department provides?   

PLUMMER: Actually Dog Control cannot do door-to-door licensing as the local Town, Village and city as the local municipality is responsible for the licensing function. Dog Control does complete the enumeration (count) of dogs in municipalities that are contracted with the County and we will remind residents to get their dogs licensed; if they fail to do so, Dog Control Officers can ticket the dog owner for an unlicensed dog.  

NNYB: How has the contract with the City of Watertown changed in the last year?   

PLUMMER: There has been an excellent working relationship with the City for twenty years when the City requested the county through the Shared Services agreement to assume their program. Each contract has been for a 5 year term. The only major changes that have developed is the length which is now a 3 year term, and the fair share charge for leash law enforcement. The basic fundamentals of the contract has really not changed a lot.  

NNYB: Your department is responsible for fielding general complaints on dogs and dangerous dogs that have attacked people or other animals as defined in article 7. How are these complaints handled and followed up on?   

PLUMMER: This is a case by case basis as each municipality is slightly different. We will work with Law Enforcement if need and continue to work within the parameters of NYS and Local laws. Dog Control Officers also appear in court when required.  

NNYB: The City of Watertown has banned dogs from public events. How is this enforced?   

PLUMMER: This is handled by the order of the City Police as it is a City policy. Normally, people leave the event with their dog once the Police Officer speaks to them.  

NNYB: There have been a number of animal cruelty cases in Jefferson County over the last couple years. How does your department assist with these cases and investigations?   

PLUMMER: Dog Control Officer’s assist local Law Enforcement with securing the dog as well as assisting with evidence collection to support law charges. The department also participates in the recently formed Animal Cruelty Task Force.  

NNYB: How does a dog become available for adoption at Dog Control?   

PLUMMER: A dog that is picked up is held for 6 days allowing time for the owner to claim the dog. After this waiting has passed, the dog is then available to the public for adoption. Any dog that is adopted is vaccinated accord to state law and must be licensed by the new owner at their local municipality as soon as possible.  

NNYB: How is the adoption process handled? Is it different than say, the SPCA?   

PLUMMER: With my very short time overseeing Dog Control, I have not had the opportunity to learn about the SPCA policies but look forward to learning and working with the SPCA.  

NNYB: Have you enjoyed taking on this new role?   

PLUMMER: Yes is has been a pleasurable experience mainly due to fantastic and well educated full and part time staff at Dog Control.  

NNYB: Have you worked with animals before?   

PLUMMER: Nothing more than as a teenager helping on a friend’s farm and visiting my grandfather’s farm as a kid. I also had a dog, Tippy, as a child growing up.  

NNYB: How did your taking over Dog Control come about?   

PLUMMER: With the retirement of longstanding Director Todd Cummings, it was the desire of County Administration and Board of Legislators to consolidate the department for some cost saving reasons and overseeing Jefferson County 911, the 911 center works on a daily basis with Dog Control by taking animal bite reports. There has always been a connection with Fire & Emergency Management. 

NNYB: Is there anything new you’re bringing to Dog Control and the shelter? New protocols, etc.?   

PLUMMER: Well at this point, we have not changed a whole lot as I have only been on the job for about 45 days since I have taken over. I believe a “new set of eyes” has helped with daily activities though.  

NNYB: Does the shelter adopt out any other type of animals?

PLUMMER: No. Under NYS Ag & Market’s Law, Dog Control can only deal with Dogs.  

NNYB: What does the future of Jefferson County Dog Control and Shelter look like?   

PLUMMER: It is my intentions to continue to provide a great Dog Control program to the residents and visitors of Jefferson County as well as for our dog population in Jefferson County. Our long standing Dog Control program is only one of three County overseen programs in New York State which we take a lot of pride in being such a trend setters for 40 years.  

NNYB: What is the most rewarding aspect of being able to be involved with the Jefferson County Dog Control and Shelter?   

PLUMMER: I would say the most rewarding aspect is seeing dogs either reunited with family who they have been separated from for whatever reason as well as dogs that are adopted from us and going to a very happy and loving home!  

~This interview was conducted by Holly Boname. It has been edited for length and clarity. Due to the recent COVID-19 crisis a photo of Joseph Plummer was not available at the time of publishing.