Ah, 22 degrees below zero — a balmy 50 degrees below freezing! There’s no better weather for a beagle to be kept outside, with nothing but an open plywood box for shelter.

At least according to Maine’s Animal Welfare Program.

We have a problem in Norridgewock: a breeding kennel that keeps dozens of shorthaired dogs out in all weather. Despite recurring issues with illegally short tethers, inadequate shelters and water deprivation, the animal control officer refuses to get involved with this property. After futile calls to the ACO on an -18-degree day, I phoned Animal Welfare when temps hit -22 degrees on Jan. 27. They are a state agency charged solely with enforcing animal welfare laws, and they pay $850,000 in annual salaries. But when I called, they hung up. Three times.

It wasn’t because of a bad connection: when informed the dogs were out in -22 degree temperatures, the person on the line shot back an annoyed “I’m aware of the weather.” Then slammed down the phone. He hung up because he didn’t want to be bothered taking a report.

If you’ve tried to report an animal welfare problem in your community, this has probably happened to you. Hanging up is Animal Welfare’s standard response to reports of animal abuse. Those in Norridgewock frustrated with constant hang-ups for our issue contacted the attorney general’s office, which referred us to Animal Welfare’s director. He promised to respond regarding this employee’s behavior but never did. Months later, Animal Welfare is still hanging up on callers.

Animal Welfare got $76,000 from license plates in 2020. Here’s my idea: Use that $76,000 to hire someone off the street, and fire everyone else. Maine would have a functional Animal Welfare department, and the public would save a million in salaries for do-nothing employees too inconvenienced to answer a phone while dogs under their alleged protection freeze to death.

 

Rebecca Ballien

Norridgewock

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