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Advocate Spotlight: Everett ACO and City Councilor Help Wildlife

Everett City Councilor Stephanie Martins and ACO Stacia Gorgone Take on Pest Control Companies with Local Legislation

In the summer of 2020, Everett’s Animal Control Officer Stacia Gorgone received several reports and pictures from residents depicting trapped animals who were left for more than 24 hours in the sun during some hot 90-degree days. The traps had been set by pest control companies. Unfortunately, before this ordinance, the ACO did not have the ability to intervene.

Stacia brought the issue to Everett City Councilor Stephanie Martins, and together they worked on and passed an ordinance that now requires pest control companies to check roof traps for squirrels and raccoons every 6 hours from June 1 through September 30, and gives the Everett ACO jurisdiction to release animals who are at risk after a 6-hour period.

Read on to learn how they did it and what advice they give citizens who are looking to pass a similar measure.


Stacia, Gorgone, Everett Animal Control Officer

Stacia Gorgone, Everett Animal Control Officer

As background, what led you to become an Animal Control Officer?

Stacia Gorgone: I was into rescue before I was an ACO. I worked for Missing Dogs MA and volunteered for the City prior to being hired. The Everett mayor is very pro-animal and wanted an ACO who took an animal rescue approach. When the position opened, I moved into it. With this official position, I can do way more to help animals than I ever could.

Same for you Stephanie – what led you to become a city councilor?

Stephanie Martins: I have always worked to be a bridge to connect people with resources. I worked for the Know Your Rights Campaigns and worked with citizens who had language barriers to make sure they knew how to vote and their rights, in general. I then looked at my own city and saw that there was an opportunity to add more voices to the table. I ran for Everett City Council, and now am the first Latina City Councilor in Everett.

What issue led to the need for this ordinance?

Stephanie Martin, Everett City Councilor

Stephanie Martins, Everett City Councilor-Ward 2

SG: People care so much about wildlife in Everett, and we ask them to always call us if there is an issue. Homeowners called and sent photos to me saying there were traps on roofs with animals in them, left in 90 degree heat for 24 hours. When we went to investigate, we found that a pest control company owned the traps and that the traps were not secured and could easily fall off the roof, which they did. When I went to pick up the fallen cage, the Problem Animal Control (PAC) ripped it out of my hand and laughed at me, as I had technically no authority to take the trap or animal. Myself, my supervisor, and one of the police officers with us couldn’t believe what was happening, and to legally have our hands tied was upsetting. In the moment, I couldn’t protect the animal. The animals suffered on the roof, but I could not legally intervene. PAC agents have the right to take the animals, but didn’t have to let the animals suffer. He could have released them or let me release them. It was disturbing and truly bothered me. These animals are little souls and they depend on us. I was able to file a complaint with the company and follow up after, but something had to be done so I could address situations like these in the moment.

When did City Council become involved?

SG: Stephanie is very well known for being helpful to the residents and works on animals issues. I knew if I went to Stephanie, she would get it done. Our City Councilors are great, but Stephanie is extremely passionate about animals, so after the constituent complaints came in, I called her. Everett is strict – we have very strict laws here to protect our animals.

SM: When the constituent concerns came to Stacia, who brought them to me, we realized this was really an animal cruelty issue. Animals were falling/dropped from the roof in traps and left in the heat all day. We needed to find a way to supervise and show the pest control companies that we care about our animals in Everett.

Was there opposition to the ordinance?

SM: The biggest opposition was from homeowners who wanted their autonomy. Most people witnessed what happened over the summer and I did receive complaints separate from Stacia’s about what happened. So most people ultimately agreed that it was cruel, and that the ordinance was needed. One concern was if the animals are released on the property, how do they keep them from coming back. We told people that they would need to work with the company they hired on Integrated Pest Management, like plugging holes animals use to enter their home, cleaning up trash, etc. We aren’t telling homeowners that they can’t hire someone to trap, we are saying that when pest control companies do come in, that they have to operate in a humane manner and be supervised by the city’s ACO.

Was it hard to get other City Councilors on board?

SM: It took a couple of months to work through the process. We already have a big animal control section in our ordinances so I tried to follow the framework that already existed. The fining process was a concern, but we were able to use the violations and fining procedure that already existed. The legality of the animal control officer being able to fine came up, but since she is already allowed to write tickets, we just had to make sure we weren’t going above the existing law. The MSPCA and The Humane Society were also able to help identify Massachusetts state law that said animals could not be left for more than 24 hours and we were able to just narrow it down so that PAC agents have to check their traps every 6 hours. If they do not, Stacia would have jurisdiction to take the animals and traps and fine the pest control company.

SG: Everett’s City Council is very animal friendly. Almost every Council member has been on board with animals issues. They are amazing, including the Mayor. It takes teamwork to get something like this done, and Stephanie spearheaded it and I was happy to help.

How important are phone calls from constituents?

SM: So important. Social media also gave this issue lots of traction. We also received lots of feedback from residents who saw what happened over the summer and who were looking forward to the ordinance passing. If we ended up having big opposition we would have been able to point to the constituent phone calls, emails, and posts saying that residents wanted this ordinance. This outreach also sparked a conversation on the Council. We had people call during public participation to expose the issue as a resident concern, on top of Stacia bringing it to my attention.

Do you think this ordinance would work in other communities?

SM: I think it would work, and I think if more cities pass this type of ordinance, it would create a new standard for pest control companies where they would strive to be the most humane.

Do you have any advice to a citizen wanting to pass this, or a different ordinance in their city or town?

SM: Contact us. We are interested in all issues of the city, including animals! When it comes to this ordinance, we tried to make it clear that we weren’t taking a resident’s right to remove the animal away from them, we just want to make sure the process is humane. In Everett, we do this by having the ACO supervise, but each city can go about it their own way. It starts with a conversation between neighbors and on social media. If you see something, start a conversation about it. If there is an issue, you can reach out to your own city councilor, or a city councilor you know is animal friendly.

SG: Go to your city councilor, you voted them in. They are very helpful. I have found that other cities and towns are animal friendly, and that people are becoming more animal-oriented. Do your research, and see what other ordinances cities and towns have. If other cities and towns are doing it, another one will do it.

If more citizens get involved, the better. Citizens are the best advocates ever!

 

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