City employees work behind the scenes to keep residents, animals safe

WESTFIELD-From public safety calls to animal control, city employees work tirelessly behind the scenes each day to ensure residents and animals are safe and healthy.

In recognition of those efforts, Margaret Terkelsen, animal control operations manager, Westfield Animal Control and Shelter, and Nina Barszcz, dispatch administrator, Westfield Public Safety, are observing National Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week and National Telecommunicator Week, respectively, in their departments from April 11-17.

Westfield Public Safety dispatcher Kelly Garfield has been dispatching in Westfield for 13 years. She is seen processing a call for a medical emergency on 911. (NINA BARSZCZ PHOTO)

“Animal care and control professionals vow to protect the animals of the community through enforcing animal laws and interacting with the community,” said Terkelsen. “They work hard to safeguard the public, both animal and human, from the spread of disease through vaccination checks, quarantines, inspections and education.”

Terkelsen’s team includes full-time animal control officers Spenser Afonso and Jessica Carrington, and adoption counselor and shelter attendant Terri Kutayli.

“I am truly lucky to work beside these women,” said Terkelsen. “Spenser, Jessica and Terri excel at what they do and they make it look effortless.”

Work at the animal shelter includes daily animal care, animal control calls of varying degrees, families redeeming their pets from the shelter, and adoptions.

“Animal control calls can include, but are not limited to barking dog complaints, stray animals of all types, sick or injured wildlife, barn inspections, kennel inspections, cruelty investigations, and dog or cat bites,” said Terkelsen.

In 2020, the shelter took in 374 animals.

“The animal shelter adopted out 114 animals in 2020,” said Terkelsen, adding, “The animal control officers also responded to 992 animal-related issues.”

Westfield animal control officer Jessica Carrington is seen with a duck named Mischa. Carrington picked up Mischa when she received a call that he looked in ill health. He has since been nursed back to health and is looking for a new home. (MARGARET TERKELSEN PHOTO)

Terkelsen said that animal control officers are put to the test on a daily basis.

“Being in the animal care and control profession can be extremely taxing, both mentally and physically,” said Terkelsen. “The job is not all ‘puppies and kittens’ as people would like to think. It takes a special strength to be able to do what they do. These ladies go above and beyond, and they do it with professionalism and smiles on their faces.”

Spenser Afonso, animal control officer for the city of Westfield, on right, places an e-collar on Bailey after she had been spayed. Bailey has since gone home with her forever family. On left is Terri Kutayli, adoption counselor. (MARGARET TERKELSEN PHOTO)

Barszcz shared a similar sentiment about her employees.

“Westfield is lucky to have a dedicated team of selfless dispatchers working in the Public Safety Communications Center,” said Barszcz, adding her department includes 11 full-time dispatchers and two per diem dispatchers.

Dispatchers in Westfield Public Safety are Christine Gustafson, Kelly Garfield, Matthew Hartmann, Ellie Rulon-Miller, Katelyn Gladding, Will Serrano, Ashley Sabonis, Jailyne Claudio, Thanh Tong, Jason Menaker, Carly Falone, Jennifer Bein and Lauren Wiggs.

Barszcz said the job of a dispatcher requires months of training and years of practice, as well as long shifts each day, and time away “from loved ones during special holidays and occasions.”

“It requires you to leave all your personal opinions, beliefs, and experience at the door on your way in,” said Barszcz. “You have to hear fear and tragedy on a regular basis, yet leave that knowledge and emotion at the door on your way out. And after all of that, still desire to come in day after day to serve the community.”

Barszcz added that in 2020, dispatchers handled approximately 89,000 ringing phones (both 911 and non-emergency), 2,128 fire department calls for service, 6,373 medical calls for service, and 31,643 police calls for service.”

“You are exceptional first responders and all of you make me proud every day,” said Barszcz. “No words can express how much I truly appreciate you.”

For city residents interested in more information about the Westfield Animal Control and Shelter, call (413) 564-3129 or visit http://cityofwestfield.animalshelternet.com.

For details on reporting a fire, police or medical emergency, visit cityofwestfield.org and search for Public Safety Communications Center.

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