WALLINGFORD — For just over a week in August, the Animal Control Department was down to a single employee, with Assistant Animal Control Officer Rachel Amenta running the town’s shelter. But the department has since been rebuilt and is now under the leadership of recently hired Animal Control Officer Katie Ehlers.
The 26-year-old former assistant bank manager was hired Sept. 20 and will be paid $50,000 annually, according to Assistant Personnel Director James Hutt.
Ehlers was hired to replace Lisa Seyler, who was fired July 29 after being charged with assault.
Prior to arriving in Wallingford, Ehlers worked as the assistant animal control officer in Middletown for eight years. Working with animals is “really what I wanted to do with my life,” Ehlers said. “I’m so lucky to have landed this job.”
She studied drafting while attending Vinal Technical High School in Middletown. But animals have always been a passion, she said.
“My first job was kennel cleaning,” Ehlers said.
Working at the Middletown veterinary clinic was a valuable experience, she said. Ehlers realized she didn’t want to be a veterinarian but wanted a career in animal rescue.
“It was really what I wanted to do with my life,” Ehlers said.
Ehlers said she has enjoyed working with Amenta, who she knew professionally from animal rescue events.
A large aspect of the department’s push to adopt pets is the use of Facebook. In early August, Amenta started a Facebook page, titled “Wallingford Animal Control.”
“It’s a good way to get the animals exposure for adoption,” Amenta said at the time. “It’s been pretty successful.”
After just a month, the page had 1,016 followers. To date, the page has amassed 1,830 followers. Posts on the page are positive and tell stories of animals currently housed in the shelter or of animals that found permanent homes with families.
“Rachel did an awesome job with it,” Ehlers said.
Town Councilor Vinny Cervoni follows the Facebook page, and said that Ehlers and Amenta “do a good job of promoting the animals they have for adoption.”
Cervoni adopted two dogs from the shelter about three years ago. Its obvious Ehlers and Amenta have passion for the job, he said, which is crucial since the position isn’t as high-paying as other town leadership jobs.
Also following the Facebook page is Town Councilor Tom Laffin, who in the past adopted four cats from the shelter. The page is an “easy, cheap and free way to just get out there and say these are the animals we have,” Laffin said.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. was unavailable for comment on Thursday.
Ehlers said the shelter is no-kill, unless an animal is aggressive beyond training. The goal is to find homes for the animals, she said.
On many weekends, Ehlers said, she and Amenta volunteer time and travel to adoption events across the state. With supplies costly and limited, it’s important to get animals adopted, especially this time of year, she said.
“Right now we are inundated with kittens,” Ehlers said.
The shelter badly needs kitten food, sheets, towels and cleaning supplies, she said. The shelter has plenty of dog food, Ehlers added, because Knuckleheads restaurant in Wallingford donated a large amount. On Saturday, a fundraiser for the shelter is being held at Stop & Shop at 930 N. Colony Road. All items will be accepted, she said.
Ehlers is a pet owner herself. She cares for four dogs, a cat, two birds and three turtles.