Critters Column

By Debra Bell

of the weekly staff

When a pet becomes lost, the first call an owner should make is to the local Animal Control Officer. That’s because these men and women are on the front line of keeping both animals and people healthy and happy.

Sometimes the job requires picking up a stray or injured animal from the roadside and delivering it for medical care and to the safety of a shelter. Other times it entails wrangling a playful pup out of the street and into the safety of a specially designed ACO truck.

But most of all, ACO’s improve the human and animal bond while also looking out for public safety. ACO’s must be able to handle animals safely, skillfully, navigate high emotions, and stand up for the creatures who can not speak for themselves.

From April 11-17, the public is invited to celebrate ACO officers during National Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week.

“[ACOs] are really the first line of defense in animal welfare,” said Suzan Bell, the executive director for Bangor Humane Society. “They really know the community, they know where the issues, such as cat colonies and hoarders are as well as the positive and negative aspects of animal safety. There wouldn’t be animal welfare without the ACOs.”

And City of Bangor Animal Control Officer Pat Pinkham knows how important her role is in the Public Safety Department. In fact, she will tell you that the best part of the job is helping people and animals.

Pinkham, also known as Grammy Pat by the staff at Bangor Humane Society, has spent the last 30 years as Bangor’s ACO. In that time she has helped reunite pet owners with their furry family members, attended to strays and wildlife in need, served summons for cruelty to animals, apprehended dogs roaming at large, managed dog licensing, soothes hurt feelings, stands up animals being abused and neglected, and much more.

One aspect of her job that she loves, she said, is to “get into the schools as much as possible.” Her role is to teach area children and youth about safety around strange animals, how to keep from being bit, and polite behavior around unfamiliar dogs.

“I like to get into the schools as much as possible,” Pinkham said. “Little kids bug their adults.”

The most unusual case she ever worked was a baby harbor seal that appeared at the police department.

“The umbilical cord wasn’t even off,” Pinkham said. “I had to go down to the river and bring back water to put into a kiddie pool. I had a german shepherd at the time and had to put him into a down-stay so that the seal could cuddle him. We even had to put the bottle around the shepherd’s neck [to nurse the pup] until we could take it to the New England Aquarium.”

The 30 year ACO veteran will retire this September, leaving Maine behind for sunny weather in Naples, Fla. And she’ll be taking her and her furry family with her. Each animal joined Pinkham’s family through her job as ACO.

But the lifelong animal lover won’t be giving up making a difference in the lives of animals. She plans on working with a local stray shelter because “strays need more attention.”

For links to Maine animal control officers by town, visit my blog at

Debra Bell is a special sections writer at the Bangor Daily News. She is also a professional photographer specializing in pet photography. She is owned by Olivia, a Maine coon cat, and Laura, a greyhound. Debra is the author of the “Critters” Blog located at