Lives are important. All lives are important. All lives matter.
It is not often that our jobs and our passions are one and the same, but when they are we must embrace them, cherish them and never take them for granted.
Sherry DeGenova, highly decorated and respected Animal Control Officer for the City of Hartford, where I was born, is that woman. For the past seventeen years she has been out there, on the front lines helping people keep their beloved pets, educating, and making a difference in the lives of thousands of people, while at the same time saving countless animals from certain death. Being an Animal Control Officer was not just a job to Sherry, it was her passion, her life, her identity. Her love for her community was apparent in everything she did, not only for the animals but also for the people she served.
On Wednesday, May 4, 2016 all of that changed when Sherry fell victim to budget cuts in the City of Hartford. It was in no way personal. Everyone loved her. The Police Department loved her. The public loved her and, of course, the animals loved her. It was a matter of economics in a city that was in dire financial straits and was desperately looking for ways to balance the budget.
The layoffs of two Animal Control Officers leave Connecticut’s capital with only one active Animal Control Officer. Hartford is a city where animal abuse and neglect are serious problems. It is often a dumping ground for unwanted pets, and it is a place where dog fighting still exists despite the temptation to turn a blind eye and pretend that it doesn’t.
Sherry DeGenova has been a savior and a voice for the voiceless and the helpless. She not only saved lives but she did it responsibly. She never adopted out a dog to clear out a cage or bolster statistics. Each dog that came into her care was evaluated. The animals were not just numbers – they were photographed, videotaped, tested with children and other dogs and they were given names. Their lives mattered.
On the other side, every potential adopter was carefully screened, references were checked and a background check was done, all within the constraints of a system that only gives dogs nine days to find homes. Under Sherry’s watch, when a dog was adopted from the Hartford pound, every effort was made to ensure that the dog went to a good and safe home and that the dog was a good fit for the adoptive family. For seventeen years she has been a shining example of what it means to be an Animal Control Officer.
Whether you live in Connecticut or elsewhere, please do whatever you can to show your support. The lives of thousands of animals are at stake. Let’s show the City of Hartford, the State of Connecticut and the world what Sherry has shown us – that all lives matter.