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Rhode Island animal control officer cringes at how the movies portray her profession

By Pablo Ros ·
Rhode Island animal control officer cringes at how the movies portray her profession
Tara Sekator (member-provided photo)

When Tara Sekator was a child, her grandparents had a dog named Spooky.

“Spooky died when I was just a little girl, and I used to throw tennis balls toward heaven thinking Spooky could get them,” recalls Sekator, who is now an animal control officer for the town of South Kingstown, Rhode Island.

She missed Spooky. When she was 5 years old, Sekator asked her parents for a dog of her own and they obliged. She named her Scruffy.

When she was 11 or 12, she began volunteering at a local shelter. When she was 15, she had her first job at a local kennel.

Her love of animals hasn’t stopped.

“The only compliment that I’ll ever give myself is that I’m really good at reading animals and reading their behavior, so I’ve always gravitated towards animals,” she says.

But as much as she loves her job, which she does as an employee of the town’s police department, she dislikes the misconceptions people often have of animal control officers.

“People watch Disney movies and they think that animal control officers take dogs away and put them behind bars,” Sekator says. “I watch those movies now and I cringe.”

Part of Sekator’s job, which is to keep the public safe, is education.

“I’m trying to break down that barrier,” she says. “I want to get rid of the persona of the animal control officer as the bad guy. That’s not how it is.”

For her service to her community, Sekator, a member of AFSCME Local 1612 (Council 94), is a winner of our union’s Never Quit Service Award, which recognizes public service workers who go above and beyond the call of duty to make their communities better.

“Tara loves animals,” says Amanda Nelson, an assistant manager of the town’s animal shelter who works with Sekator and nominated her for the award. “She always wants to do the best for people and for animals, is always trying to find ways to help others. She is a great asset to our town.”

In the movies, Sekator says, animal control officers are often portrayed as carrying snare poles, which they aggressively use to subdue their victims. But the reality is quite different.

“I’ve only used a snare pole twice in my whole career, and only on an aggressive dog,” she says. “We use different ways to approach animals, it’s often treats or squeaky toys. It’s always about your tone of voice, how you communicate with them.”

What motivates her to never quit, Sekator says, is her love of animals.

“At the end of the day, you have to remember that the animals can’t speak, so we’re the voice for the voiceless,” she says. “They don’t get to pick their owners. If I’m giving information to an owner, not only am I helping that person, but I’m helping the animal, and that’s what matters.”

Never Quit Service Awards

Do you know a co-worker who goes above and beyond the call of duty to make their community better? Nominate them for AFSCME’s Never Quit Service Award.

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