City pound a temporary stay

City ACO: ‘I take pride in what I do’

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy Steve Purol is the animal control officer for the city of Dunkirk and surrounding towns. Purol says his goal is to return dogs to their owners as fast as possible.

He considers it a retirement job following his career as a cop. But being animal control officer has Steve Purol on call and working 24/7.

Purol serves as a contracted dog catcher for the city of Dunkirk and surrounding towns that include Dunkirk and Sheridan. Purol says he takes a lot of pride in returning runaway dogs to their owners in quick fashion or getting the neglected ones to local animal shelters for treatment and attention they need.

“I work really hard to find these owners,” Purol said during an interview last week at the city dog pound. “The best part of the job is reuniting a dog.”

Purol has worked during times of public ridicule surrounding the state of the city dog pound near Cedar Beach in the city. Just last month, resident Cheryl Gawronski raised concerns before city council members regarding conditions she saw upon being let inside. And late last year, Buffalo television stations came down to check the dog pound out after complaints from the public on social media.

The facility that was once a bathhouse might be old, but the state in its most recent inspection deemed it adequate. But Purol says he’s doing what he can to keep it clean and sanitized for the dogs coming in. Purol also said it’s not a place of long-term housing for dogs.

“It’s temporary,” Purol said. “Everyone thinks dogs are here forever. They’re just not.”

By law, dogs can be kept at the pound for five days before they’re sent to shelters like the Lakeshore Human Society in Dunkirk or the Chautauqua County Humane Society in Jamestown. Dangerous dogs with a court order, however, can be impounded up to 10 days.

Purol said most dogs are in the pound for a couple of hours before they’re reunited with their owners. Purol picked up dogs last Sunday and Monday. By Tuesday, they were out of the pound.

“In the summer time it gets pretty busy,” he said. “I pick up some days five dogs a day. The next morning I may have one left. With all the social media stuff we do, the dogs get out of here real fast.”

During a walk through the facility last week with Purol and Third Ward Councilman Shaun Heenan, no dogs were being held at the facility. While natural light is lacking with no windows, Purol said lights stay on in the building for the dogs 24/7.

Each kennel has a bed and an inside and outside run. Fans were located inside and blowing for extra ventilation.

Purol says he comes down to the facility several times a day, including every morning to feed and check dogs. Purol says he cleans every day and sanitizes once a week with Clorox and other cleaning products.

“I can’t choose what kind of dogs come here,” he said. “If it’s a beautiful little puppy that’s manicured I pick it up. If it’s a dog that’s been abandoned or running in the mud I still have to get it.”

Heenan said he came down to the pound with Randy Woodbury, city public works director, following comments issued last month on the dog pound. He said there’s improvements they’d like to make, including more natural light, a ventilation system to move fresh air around and a few exterior repairs.

“We know it needs improvements,” Heenan said. “I’m going to propose at the next budget to get at least $5,000 for windows, ventilation and aesthetic improvements.”

Heenan said he also met recently with County Executive George Borrello and Kevin Muldowney, county legislator, on a grant opportunity through the state in hopes to find a new building that could become a north county shelter.

Late last month, Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball announced that $5 million is available through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Companion Animal Capital Fund. Organizations can apply for funds to upgrade their facilities to promote better animal care and health and to facilitate pet adoptions.

“The ideal location is 855 Main St., which is where the dog park is now,” Heenan said. “If we can get an intermunicipality type of agreement, and there’s a need in Silver Creek, Fredonia and towns of Pomfret and Dunkirk, there’s monies out there to put this together.”

As for the building on Cedar Beach, Heenan says it could become a concession stand, a place to rent kayaks or canoes or a restroom.