A different sort of patrol

Senior Animal Control Officer Kathleen Spencer poses for a photo at her temporary office at the CCSO (Ryan Lewallen/County 17)

A conversation with a CCSO Animal Control Officer

GILLETTE, Wyo.—From a Yellowstone gray wolf to run-of-the-mill stray dogs and kittens, Animal Control Officer Kathleen Spencer has seen it all during her 15 years with the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).

The job can take her from one end of Campbell County to the other in a single morning and again in the afternoon with her and only one other animal control officer handling 400 calls for service per year that range from dangerous wildlife and unwelcome household guests to stray animals and neglected pets.

That afternoon, April 12, Spencer had just returned to the CCSO from investigating a stray dog report up north in the Weston Hills Recreation area during a blizzard.

“It was a report of a German Shepherd sitting on the side of the road,” Spencer explained, adding that she had been worried the dog had been abandoned in the arctic conditions, which sometimes happens in that area.

This time, however, it turned out to be a dog who lived nearby, and Spencer was able to send the dog home with its owner, rather than taking it to the local animal shelter.

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While her role is unpredictable and undeniably busy, Spencer wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You just never know what you’re going to get,” she said, recalling a time in 2015 when she responded to a report concerning a dog running loose in a pasture near Bishop Road, just outside of Gillette.

Senior Animal Control Officer Kathleen Spencer points to pictures of interesting animals that CCSO animal control has seen or dealt with (Ryan Lewallen/ County17)

“I could see it from the road walking down to it. I’m just walking down with my leash like it wasn’t a big deal,” Spencer laughed. As she got closer, she realized that the animal’s body wasn’t quite right for a dog and saw a radio collar around its neck.

The dog turned out to be a Yellowstone gray wolf and a picture of the canid is currently hanging on a CCSO board alongside other notable animal encounters.

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The wolf in the Bishop Road call that Spencer responded to back in 2015 (Ryan Lewallen/County 17)

“Oh, god no!” Spencer said when asked if she tried to capture it. “Thankfully, it had nothing to do with me.”

Dogs, cats, porcupines, skunks, snakes, and the occasional alligator are all a part of an animal control officer’s day at the office, and Spencer has taken calls regarding every single one of them.

A CCSO board depicting interesting animal encounters by CCSO animal control (Ryan Lewallen/County 17)

It’s the diversity of the job and her love of animals, combined with her profession’s unpredictable nature and patrol freedom, that keeps Spencer coming back to work every shift.

“I love what I do, it’s fun,” she said.

Senior Animal Control Officer Kathleen Spencer showcases another board of interesting animal encounters at the CCSO (Ryan Lewallen/County 17)