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Monday, 23 October 2017

Interview with AWP Director Norma Worley
Written by Robert Fisk   
Tuesday, 30 January 2007

What is your background before becoming Maine AWP Director?

Prior to relocating to Maine for “retirement” I was employed by the Ventura County Department of Animal Regulation, located in Camarillo, CA for 21 years.  I started my career as a field animal control officer and over the years rose to the position of Operations Manager.  My responsibilities in that position were to oversee the kennel operation (we received over 15,000 animals a year) the field staff of 14 animal control officers and the administrative staff.

When you took over as the AWP Director the status of the state humane agents was not good. They were without direction, untrained and some positions were unfilled. What is the state of the humane agents in the AWP now and what have you done to augment the needed changes? 

We are fortunate that we now have some of the most trained humane agents in the nation.  When I assumed this position I made some immediate changes including the hiring of a veterinarian, a full time agent for Aroostook and Washington/Hancock Counties; access to the best training for new agents and the support of the Commissioner’s office. Our court convictions and the amount of animals removed (1006) from abusive situations since 2003 supports our success.

In 2001 with significant changes in the operation of the Animal Welfare Program being legislated, one component of that change was the establishment of the Animal Welfare Advisory Council. What is your view of the AWAC? 

AWAC has been a tremendous resource for me combined with their historical knowledge of the past, including the “Red Report”.  Without the help of the AWAC members I doubt the program would have moved forward as quickly as it has. 

What has been the most disappointing legislation you have been involved in; and what has been your legislative highlight? 

The most disappointing legislation was in 2003 when I had just started in this position.  The Department bill was asking for a literacy testing and mandatory advanced training for animal control officers.  Coming from an animal control department (CA) that was so progressive I was shocked when I was told that ACO’s didn’t need to know how to read and advanced training was unnecessary.  The legislative highlight was this past session’s inclusion of animals in the Protection from Abuse orders used in domestic violence.  Maine was the first in the nation to pass this type of legislation and many states have followed suit.

How do you view animal protection organizations like MFOA in your role as AWP Director?

I see them as most valuable!  Many times citizens do not want to report cruelty or neglect to the “State” but will report it to an animal protection organization that in turn will work with us.  Also these organizations have the ability and time to educate many more citizens than we can.

Sufficient funding has always hung over the AWP. What is your view at this point of the funding for the program?      

Funding is always an issue and it is be-coming more critical.  Most residents of Maine do not know that 85% of AWP funding comes from our portion of the dog licensing fee resulting in the majority of our funding coming from the “honest” dog owner.  Last year we spent over $100,000 on the care and treatment of seized animals with less than 20% coming back into our budget through court ordered restitution.  I hope that we never reach a point that we are unable to remove abused animals because of lack of funding.

What things have you yet to accomplish that is on your agenda?

1.  I want all humane agents to attend all 5 levels of the national cruelty training for both small and large agents. 

2.  I hope to resolve the sheltering issue for both large and small animals. We have reached maximum capacity at our horse rescues and most humane societies don’t always have space for our seized animals.

3. Continue to improve and strengthen, through legislation, Maine’s Animal Welfare Laws and Regulations.

What is the most demanding or challenging part of your job? 

I think that would be just the day-to-day operations.  I receive 25-35 emails a day, mostly from concerned citizens in addition to some 15+ phone calls which I try to return on the same day.  I must stay on top of operations, proposed legislation, the “Help Fix ME” program, dog licensing, ACO assistance and training.  Plus just keeping up with my staff is a challenge but thanks heavens I can depend on them!

Do you have a favorite specific personal story in your responsibilities as AWP? 

Actually I have many.  The stories I appreciate the most are the ones sent in by the new owners of our rescued animals.  Many stay in touch by sending us pictures and stories of just day-to-day activities for their newly adopted animals.  Unfortunately we have removed so many animals we tend to get caught up in “paperwork” of the case and the courts.  This leads to the tendency to not recall or to lose sight of the individual animals but fortunately we have wonderful rescuers who help us remember why we really do what we do.  There’s nothing like receiving a picture of a healthy and happy animal to lift your spirits and to make us more determined to help those who cannot help themselves.

 
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