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When Jamie McAloon-Lampman began directing the animal control department and shelter in Michigan’s Ingham County in 2004, some people accused her of trying to run the operation “like a humane society.” That accusation—she recalls with a laugh—prompted her to reply, “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“We really are not your standard animal control, by any means,” McAloon-Lampman says, pointing to the county’s pet food banks, spay/neuter clinic, and outreach programs. She’s particularly excited about a new community outreach center in a Lansing neighborhood—an area that has been a source of complaints. The center, which was set to open in October, will assist local residents with everything from dog training and humane education to spay/neuter and low-cost vaccinations. “We really want to be proactive,” she explains. “… Let’s stop it before we have to deal with it.”
A 27-year veteran of the animal welfare field, McAloon-Lampman believes that a humane approach to animal control doesn’t mean—as her skeptics feared—that you weaken law enforcement. Along with all its other services, the county has increased its animal licensing by almost 30 percent, and doubled its prosecutions.
Jill Fritz, Michigan state director for The HSUS, says she’s seen both sides of McAloon-Lampman and her staff. After Ingham County animal control helped shutter a puppy mill in 2009, “I was just really impressed by the diligence of Jamie and her officers in really pursuing the case, and making sure that all the right charges were filed, and that this person was shut down,” Fritz says. And they’re also “a really wonderful part of the greater Lansing community,” Fritz adds—educating the public about cruelty, and encouraging adoptions and humane animal care.
McAloon-Lampman studied journalism at the University of Oklahoma and planned to become a reporter, but a job as a veterinary technician during college led her down a different path. Her own animals include two horses, two Labs, a Pekingese mix, and three cats. In the edited interview that follows, she discusses her career with Animal Sheltering associate editor James Hettinger.
Animal Sheltering: What are some of the big issues in your community, or anything you’re excited about, or frustrated by?
Jamie McAloon-Lampman: The frustration—and I think everyone experiences the same frustration—is [the animals] just keep coming.
We just got a grant from PetSmart to do free spay/neuter for dogs in that specific area [where] we’re doing the outreach [center], and we’ve gotten other grants to do cats. That message—spay/neuter, spay/neuter—it’s still a good message, and it does work, because we’ve seen a decline in the number of animals. We were taking in almost 7,000 animals when I came here seven years ago. Now we’re down to a little less than 4,000. That’s significant, especially when an economy is dumping animals on us left and right.
[Another frustration is] the neglect and the abuse. We do a lot of dogfighting cases. It’s amazing how many people say, “Oh, I didn’t know we had that here.”
How do you be proactive about that sort of thing?
You’ve got to have some well-trained officers, and you’ve got to educate the judges and the prosecutors. We’ve really made a lot of effort to work with the prosecutors, and we give them good cases.
You’ve got to feel that it’s important, and you’ve got to be passionate about it. We’re all passionate. I hire people for passion, not for experience. I can get them the experience, but I can’t give them that passion. They’ve got to believe that we’re gonna make a difference.
In the years you’ve been in the field, how would you say it’s changed or is changing now?
I think the commissioners and the public officials are recognizing that the citizens who vote don’t want dog pounds. They want humane shelters. That’s the biggest change that’s come into animal control, and I like it.
If you could wave a magic wand, what aspect of the animal welfare field would you most like to change?
I’d like to make it more of a priority in the community. I think it adds to quality of life in any community. Nobody wants to live in a community where there [are] abused and abandoned animals wandering the streets, and nobody’s responding to it. I’d like to see it be recognized for the valuable service that it is, and I don’t know how you do that other than to toot your own horn, which is often what we do.