CUMBERLAND – Cumberland’s new animal control officer has always had a passion for working with animals, and now Shelby Boudreaux’s career dreams are coming true.
“I’ve always been in love with animals, ever since I was a kid,” Boudreaux, whose first day was Aug. 23, told The Breeze during an interview at the Blackstone Valley Municipal Animal Shelter, at 25 Wellington Road in Lincoln, where Cumberland and Lincoln share animal control offices.
“I’m very grateful,” she said of her new position. “I’m really, really happy to be here and make a difference for everybody.”
Boudreaux, of Cranston, comes to Cumberland from the Cranston Animal Shelter where she worked as the adoption coordinator, and during her tenure she found homes for more than 500 dogs and cats. In Cranston, she would help the animal control officer with investigations, complaints, and abuse and neglect cases, she said.
After high school, Boudreaux graduated from New England Tech’s veterinarian tech program in 2014 and worked in the field for a year before connecting with someone at the Cranston Animal Shelter in 2015.
“Ever since then I’ve been in love with the shelter life,” she said. In 2016, she was named Shelter Worker of the Year by Handsome Dan’s Rescue.
During her first few weeks, Boudreaux said she’s met a lot of staff at Cumberland Town Hall, EMS, and members of the public.
“I’m getting a lot of phone calls,” she said.
Cumberland and Lincoln currently share the animal shelter on Wellington Road, which the town of Smithfield also used until it terminated its contract in June to join Johnston and North Providence.
The New England Humane Society, a nonprofit animal rescue group, currently fills the former Cumberland Animal Control building on Martin Street.
Mayor Jeff Mutter told The Breeze that at this point there’s nothing in the works for Cumberland to leave the shared space.
“We’re really happy to have Shelby on board,” he said, adding that they’re taking everything one step at a time. “We have no complaints at all with Lincoln.”
The current situation was negotiated prior to Mutter becoming mayor, he said, adding that if he had been in charge he’s not sure he would have agreed, instead preferring to keep services in Cumberland.
“That’s the situation right now,” he said. “We’re happy with the arrangement as it is.”
As Boudreaux settles into her role, she said that some calls have been tough, while others can be entertaining. She helped one of the Lincoln animal control officers recently to net and catch a domestic turkey.
“So far that’s the only really funny one,” she said. “I know there’s going to be many more, which I look forward to. You never know what you’ll get.”
As part of her role, she works with the Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Rhode Island in North Kingstown and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, she said, and helps out the Lincoln animal control officers when needed.
“Every single day is different,” she said. “I never know what the day is going to bring me.”
Asked what her philosophy is, Boudreaux said her goal is to reunite animals with their owners or find them a home, “to make sure all animals are safe and taken care of and are overall happy and healthy.”
In addition to working with animals, Boudreaux said she also loves working with the public.
“Being involved in the community is really my favorite thing to do,” she said. “I have a lot of ideas.”
Part of her mission as the animal control officer is to do more community outreach, starting with launching a Facebook page where she’s been promoting animals who are up for adoption, she said. The shelter currently has one dog, Annabelle, a 2.5-year-old mixed breed, available for adoption. Boudreaux said Annabelle is up-to-date on her vaccinations and will be best in an adult-only home with no cats or little dogs.
“I love promoting them and making sure they’re able to have a home,” she said of the animals at the shelter.
She will also share information about lost or found pets, she added.
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Boudreaux said she will be giving updates at Cumberland Town Council meetings on what she’s been working on and what her plans are.
“In the short time she’s been here I appreciate not only her credentials but her energy,” Mutter said. “I have full confidence she’ll make marked improvements (at the shelter).”
Asked what brought her to Cumberland, Boudreaux said she wanted a change and everyone in Cumberland seemed really excited.
“I was just really excited to start a new chapter. I know I’ll be here for the long run,” she said. “Everybody seems so nice and really helpful.”
Her message to residents, she said, is to license their dogs, make sure pets are up to date with rabies vaccinations, and to follow the leash laws in Rhode Island.
“Always adopt,” she added. “There are so many rescues.”
Boudreaux has six animals at home: four cats, a dog, and a tortoise, who all get along, she said.
Her husband and family have been big supporters, she said. “They know I’ve been wanting to do something like this forever.”