By Matt Lynch

Staff Writer

TOWNSEND — A rash of concerned phone calls about wild animals prompted the Board of Health to debate the merits of hiring a trained professional.

According to Chairman Linda Tarantino, the position of animal control officer does not require, but often includes, contact with non-domesticated animals. She brought the matter up for discussion at the board’s Oct. 9 meeting.

“People have been calling the police,” she said, “and Lt. (David) Profit called me the other day and asked what they should do if one of the animals is rabid.”

She went on to describe how, shortly after talking to the lieutenant, she received a phone call about a dead skunk found in the bottom of a non-drinking-water well, raising her level of concern.

The expense of having an animal tested for rabies is raised whenever a trained professional is called upon to prepare the animal’s carcass for testing. Only the head is tested for the presence of the rabies virus, and the carcass is assumed to be dangerous during handling.

By having a town employee handle suspect animal carcasses, Tarantino suggested, the town could save money in the long run and have a definitive person to call in such cases. The person would have to be vaccinated, carry a weapon for protection, and be able to safely handle suspect remains.

“My gut feeling is that people won’t spend money on a (outside professional),” but are more likely to accept a town-paid employee, she said.

Tarantino was also quick to point out that the rabies testing costs are avoided if the animal did not come into contact with a human or pet before its death.

“If you don’t have a dog licking his wounds (after an attack), it’s not a Board of Health issue,” Tarantino said. “But (the suspect animal) still has to be removed. It only needs to be tested if it was exposed to humans or (pets), but otherwise bury it and forget about it.”

Vice Chairman James Le’Cuyer suggested himself for the potential position of full-service animal control, citing his license to bear arms and his credentials as a professional trapper.

Tarantino, however, told him that he would have to petition the Board of Selectmen first and there was still the matter of determining just what the position would entail.

Le’Cuyer agreed and offered additional insight to the usefulness of such a position, primarily focused on the potential for rabid animal problems.

“It will give us a better idea of where rabid animals are located in certain sections of the town,” Le’Cuyer offered.

The board members agreed to continue to discuss the matter further at a future meeting.