By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The job of an ordinance officer is not easy to explain, or maybe it is in broad terms quite simple to describe. Everything.
Ordinance officers do a little bit of everything, and I had the chance to ride along with Ordinance Officer Dan Leonard for a little over four hours on Thursday, July 2. Leonard would recap our four hours by saying it was relatively quiet, but to me it felt frantic, running all over the city with a truly vast net of responsibilities.
Leonard spent time in the United States Navy and working in manufacturing before he found his calling as an ordinance officer.
“People always ask me, ‘When are you going to retire?’ and I always give them the same answer, ‘When it’s not fun anymore,’” Leonard said. “I still enjoy my job. It’s still an adventure.”
We started the day checking municipal lots for parking violations. The Marshfield Police Department also employs an individual from the Opportunity Development Center Inc. to assist with writing tickets and enforcing parking time limits. I was nearly granted the chance to write out my own ticket, but the vehicle left before we arrived on the scene. That led to a mixture of an emotional letdown and a relief. It would have been fun to be the long arm of the law for an instance, but, truly, I did not want to be responsible for spoiling somebody’s day.
From there we moved on to what takes up the bulk of an ordinance officers’ day, animal control. We received a call that an animal had been trapped on the southeast part of town, and within minutes Leonard was placing a cat into the ordinance van, which he called the “Cadillac” of the police fleet, and we headed to the Parkview Pet Motel, where the city contracts to keep stray cats for a period of seven days. After the seven days Marshfield Area Pet Shelter (MAPS) takes the cats and works to find adoptive homes for them.
While at the Pet Motel, ordinance officers medicate cats that need it in the morning, and MAPS volunteers do so in the evening, Leonard said. On the day we visited, the cat we brought made for seven total stray cats housed at the Pet Motel.
Leonard said that he is an animal lover — he owns two German shepherds that he uses in his free time to teach children dog-bite safety classes and obedience classes — but in some cases feral animals may not be adoptable.
“In reality you can’t save them all,” Leonard said. Leonard personally has to euthanize an animal if it is too sick to save or too wild to be adoptable.
We also responded to a couple of reports of dogs being left unattended in cars, but it was an unseasonably cool morning for July, and Leonard took a measured approach. The first dog we encountered was in a car parked in the shade with the windows down and the owner presumably inside a restaurant or business neighboring the lot. Leonard inspected the dog, which appeared to be happy and healthy, and noted to check on the animal later to make sure the owner had returned.
Another dog-in-vehicle call brought us to the East Wing of the Marshfield Clinic where the pet owner had left two dogs in the car but with paper bags hung in the window to produce shade, and the weather was still cool. Officer Leonard tracked down the owner of the vehicle to make sure she would go out frequently to provide water for the animals. The owner was waiting for a family member to finish a medical procedure and lived out of town, so she brought the dogs with for the day.
Staff Services Supervisor with the Marshfield Police Department Lorrie Krokstrom said that there is not a hard and fast rule the department follows in determining whether or not to remove a dog from a car. She said most relevant to this situation is state statute 951.02, which states in part, “No person may treat any animal, whether belonging to the person or another, in a cruel manner.”
Krokstrom added, “If the animal is in imminent danger, then it will be removed from the car. Every effort to contact the owners prior to taking the animal will be made unless the welfare of the animal is such that would require us to extract the animal immediately and then notify the owners.”
From there we continued on what seemed to me to be a chaotic day because of the volume and variety of calls to which ordinance control responds. Ordinance officers also have to respond to complaints of people leaving junk in their yards or not mowing their grass, and we made a couple of house visits to that effect. Leonard was fair and compassionate in every instance.
“I treat everybody the same. We’re all on the same page. Nobody’s better than anybody else,” Leonard said.
One person that had a yard full of items that would be a better fit at the local repository explained to Leonard that he is working two full-time jobs but would soon have some time off and could clean his yard then. Leonard told the individual that was fine but that he would be checking back to make sure the issue got taken care of.
Leonard has many roles to play, but he loves the frenzied pace.
“Either I was made for this job, or this job was made for me,” he said.
At the end of my tour with Leonard, I had my notes and was ready to head back to my office, but he insisted that I come inside the department and have a piece of cake with him, which was left over in the break room. Ordinance officers truly do a little bit of everything.