By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY March 31, 2006 She comes in peace at least as a peace officer.
By mid-April, Town of Liberty Dog Control Officer Joann Gerow will be able to answer animal cruelty calls in addition to the hundreds of lost and roaming dog calls she receives each year.
With a myriad of issues at the Sullivan County SPCA in Rock Hill, the shelter that once served as a home base for cruelty investigators in the county, the town is supporting Gerow in her quest to become a peace officer.
Currently, Ag and Markets law defines dog control officers as any individual appointed by a municipality to assist in the enforcement of this article  or any authorized officer, agent or employee of an incorporated humane society or similar incorporated dog protective association under contract with a municipality to assist in the enforcement of this article.
But the law calls for a law enforcement official to enforce the laws that relate specifically to animal cruelty.
According to Liberty Supervisor Frank DeMayo, after Gerow completes a training course, shell be sworn in as a constable of the Town of Liberty.
Constables, or peace officers, are then allowed to interfere on the behalf of an animal to protect them from further harm.
They can also issue tickets for the perpetrator to appear in town court to answer charges for abuse of an animal.
The officer with power to make arrests is also given authority by NYS Ag and Markets law to take possession of animals or implements used in fights among animals (roosters used in cock fighting, for example) or to seize an animal that has been confined or kept in a crowded or unhealthy condition, an animal kept in unsanitary surroundings or not properly cared for and animals left without necessary sustenance, food or drink for more than 12 hours.
Gerow will be paying her own way through the peace officer training course.
Thats how dedicated she is, DeMayo noted. She hasnt requested compensation.
To be fair, DeMayo said he will look at finding funds to compensate Gerow when the town begins its budget process for next year.
Theres a little extra hit on our insurance, he said. But its well worth it.
There have been calls in the past about animals in possible abuse situations, and Gerow has always followed proper protocol.
She has a good working relationship with local police agencies, DeMayo said, but those officers still have to focus on keeping the rest of the community safe.
This could streamline the process, he said, and enable calls to be answered more quickly.
Complainants would only have to call Gerow. Then she could respond rather than having to track down a police officer to do the job.
DeMayo said with the allegations of mismanagement swirling around the SPCA, the town is also looking to help other towns with their own dog control problems.
The Town of Thompson recently canceled its contract with the SPCA, and although a new contract was signed with Glen Wild Animal Rescue, the Town of Liberty has offered use of its kennel, if necessary.
DeMayo said the town has also extended an offer for Gerow to fill in when dog control officers in the surrounding towns are on vacation, and the offer of kennel use is open to a number of other towns that previously made use of the SPCA facility.
Hopefully, the SPCA solves all its issues, he said. But in the interim, this is how we can help out.
Gerow is expected to be sworn in sometime in the next month.