Due to cuts in the City of Hartford’s budget, Sherry DeGenova of West Hartford was laid off from her position as an animal control officer in the city on May 4, 2016.
By Cassidy Kotyla
West Hartford resident Sherry DeGenova may be out of a job and the City of Hartford’s budget constraints are making her reinstatement unlikely to happen anytime soon, but she’s still working on behalf of the animals she loves.
DeGenova had been an animal control officer in Hartford, CT, for 17 years when she and former coworker, Carmello Mercado, were called in for a “special assignment” to the Hartford Police Department. DeGenova said that on that day, May 4, 2016, she and her coworker were told that they were among the 40 Hartford employees laid off based on proposed budget cuts in the City’s amended budget. According to reports, only two of the four animal control officers for the city of Hartford were able to be funded, and one of them is on extended medical leave.
DeGenova’s job included more than just the “animal control” in her title. Beyond enforcing animal laws and regulations, investigating dog fighting cases, looking into cases regarding unvaccinated animals, and picking up dogs roaming loose within the city of Hartford, she was one of the only officers to dedicate her time to advocating door-to-door. DeGenova prides herself on the reputation she built in the past 17 years due to her constant care for animals.
DeGenova is passionate in her love for animals and dedication to animal care. She recalled a recent case in which she received a call regarding a dog who was left in a garbage bag by the side of the road to die. Though the animal was beyond saving by the time DeGenova and the team came to rescue him, she claimed that cases like those were the instances in which she loved every aspect of her profession.
“I built 17 years of my reputation and my career on doing the right thing,” DeGenova said. “It wasn’t just a job to me.”
On May 23, 2016, the Hartford City Council passed its amended budget, essentially ending DeGenova’s hopes of getting her job back. “As of June 1, I will have no actual income,” DeGenova said.
Despite the budget action, DeGenova still continues to fight for her former profession. With the support of thousands of Connecticut residents, a petition was filed for her reinstatement – which more than 11,000 individuals have signed to date. In addition, DeGenova is continuing to reach out to influential individuals within the city of Hartford and West Hartford. She said she has continued to receive support from members of the community and animal rights supporters like State Rep. Diana Urban of Stonington as well as various attorneys and businesses in the Greater Hartford area.
Although unemployed, DeGenova has not stopped following her passion for caring for animals. She continues to pursue efforts within the rescue group Kenway’s Cause – a non-profit that provides medical care to animals picked up by the City of Hartford – as well as working with the group “No Animal Left Unfed,” a shelter geared towards collecting donations for stray animals.
“Kenway’s Cause will always be the heart of Hartford,” DeGenova said.
During her efforts under the position of animal control officer in Hartford, DeGenova’s adoption rate ranged between 85-90 percent, and she said she helped instill a higher sense of awareness for animal safety and overall public safety.
DeGenova said her greatest concern about losing her job is for the public safety in Hartford as well as neighboring towns. The slower response time for animal control within the city of Hartford, she claims, will only result in more animals roaming the streets with the potential to endanger society.
“It is only a matter of time before West Hartford gets the leftover dogs,” DeGenova said. “It seems like the priorities of the city mean they’d rather have funding for festivals instead of putting public safety first.”
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