In more than 35 years as an animal control officer, Billy Bryant has developed a theory when responding to cases of animal cruelty and neglect.
“I’m a firm believer that the animal is as smart as the owner,” he said. “If you have an animal that is completely under control, normally the owner is, too. It’s all about education.”
From the time he started on the job – a dream of his since middle school – that has been Bryant’s philosophy: having good pet owners starts with having educated pet owners. Since 1979, Bryant has handled cruelty investigations and issues of animal control for Kokomo and Howard County through the Kokomo Humane Society.
Bryant said changes among pet owners have come gradually. Bryant said owners are more educated than they used to be in regards to caring for their animals, but the type of animals, or in many cases dog, has changed.
“It started with Dalmatians and cocker spaniels – everybody had to have them,” he said. “Now everyone wants pits and [Rottweilers]. They’re everywhere now.
“It’s just a constant thing,” he added. “When I first started, there were packs of dogs everywhere. It might have been a pack of dogs chasing after a female. Now you see one or two. The animal population is decreasing, but the type of animal is getting worse, when it comes to public nuisances.”
That, in a sense, has changed the way Bryant has done his job. Many of the conversations he will have during the course of the day involve educating the owner about their animal’s behavior and how to properly take care of it.
With the Kokomo Humane Society taking in approximately 3,500 animals per year – about 1,000 less than it did five years ago – it is facing fewer instances of strays and cruelty, but the number of cases involving larger and more dangerous dogs have increased.