A long-dormant Alaska nonprofit came back to life last week with a two-day conference attended by animal control professionals from across the state.
Hosted at the Kenai Community Library from May 10-11, the Alaska Animal Control Association (AACA) 2018 Training Conference featured sessions on a variety of topics, including communication strategies, animal rescue tips, shelter sanitation, organizational development, legislative efforts and officer safety.
Intended to provide training and educational opportunities for its members, while promoting animal welfare and advocating for animal protection legislation, the AACA was founded decades ago, but has been inactive for at least the last seven years as members have retired or moved out of the state, former AACA president Marianne Clark said.
The organization’s infrastructure, finances and paperwork, however, were still being maintained, Clark said.
A 22-year Soldotna animal control officer, Clark said Jessica (J.J.) Hendrickson, chief animal control officer at the Kenai shelter, took the initiative to make it happen.
“J.J. really did step up to the plate and got it going,” Clark said.
Hendrickson, who serves as the association’s president, has been working with members of the animal control community for the last few years to bring the association back from oblivion.
Valdez animal control officer Richard Long, who serves as the nonprofit’s secretary, said he and Hendrickson have been working to get the organization up and running for about the last 10 months.
“Given that there was money in the bank, we basically wanted to see that organization restarted,” he said.
Long said one of the catalysts for reforming the organization was a need for training and certification for animal control professionals. The group worked with the National Animal Care and Control Association, which offers certification and training for animal control professionals, to put together the conference.
NACA provides certification to animal control officers who complete two 40-hour training modules, and re-certifies those who complete 30 hours of training over a three-year period. For Alaskans, traveling out of state to get professional training can be a challenge.
Long hopes the Alaska association can build relationships with NACA so that members of the animal welfare community can receive re-certification at annual conferencesb hosted in the state.
Randy Covey, NACA board member who is also part of the organization’s executive committee, attended the conference with three other board members last week.
Raised in Kodiak, Covey said he was impressed with the number of people who traveled from around the state to attend the conference. The 29 attendees came from a variety of Alaskan communities, including Juneau, Barrow, Valdez, Kenai, Homer, Seward, Anchorage, Fairbanks, he said.
”We had an excellent conference last week,” he said. “And our goal is to do that every year.”
Long sees the organization as a way or building professional relationships, networking and creating an effective mechanism for lobbying for animal welfare legislation. He’s hoping to expand membership, which currently stands at 33, to more Alaska animal control professionals, as well as members of private animal welfare and rescue organizations.
Hendrickson said the conference was the first step in forging relationships across the state.
“It was a great way for us to really start making more connections,” she said.
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