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Taking Care of Pets and Pests

Claire with top animal control officer Diane Welch and her pet owl, Nuala

“It makes me so grateful and humbled that the people of Arlington believe in me,” says police officer Diane Welch. “It makes me want to do a better job than I did yesterday.”

Welch was recently named the Massachusetts Animal Control Officer of the Year for 2019. She helps find lost pets, enforces laws that keep people and pets safe, and rescues injured wildlife, among other responsibilities.

“My favorite part of my job is the people,” Welch told me during a recent interview in Arlington. “When I can find someone’s lost pet, their gratitude is so rewarding. Even if one of their pets passes away, I can comfort them and make them feel better.”  



Welch became certified as an animal control officer in July of 2018, after undergoing extensive training. She has been passionate about animals since childhood. Welch even adopted an owl, named Nuala, after rescuing it.

Not everyone can adopt an owl. Before calling Nuala her own, Welch had to build an enclosure and pass a series of tests to earn a special permit.

In addition to looking out for animals, Welch is also a champion of the environment. She encourages residents not to use toxic chemicals in their yard, litter, or use rat poison.

“I understand why people use rat poison, but there are better ways to get rats and mice out of houses,” Welch said. “If a coyote or a bird ate a rat that was poisoned, that animal could die. Without birds of prey, coyotes, and foxes, we would have a huge pest problem.”



Welch, who is in constant demand, tries to maintain a positive attitude. “It’s amazing to be appreciated when you work hard,” she said. “It’s the best feeling.” 

Throughout our interview, the officer’s phone kept ringing. People and animals need her help continually.

“There are some days when my job is really challenging,” Welch said. “Even when there are challenges, I know that I can do it. With the people of Arlington’s support, I can keep going. And I know with certainty that there is more good in the world than bad. I know it because I can see it every day. And that’s a beautiful thing.” 

Photo courtesy of the author