• Posted On: January 06, 2021

In 2020, Anderson County, Tennessee’s 14-year-old Animal Care and Control unit decided it was time to modernize. The paper-based department was stretched thin without an efficient way to track their cases, schedule compliance visits, identify repeat offenders or produce reports for the county commission. And when a third officer was added to the unit, the County turned to Comcate for help.

Anderson County’s Successful Animal Control Program

The County’s 77,000 residents love their animals. And Mayor Terry Frank’s administration works hard to build bridges with the community using compassion and emotional intelligence to achieve animal welfare.

“We’re not heavy-handed in the county when it comes to animal control. Officers usually start with a visitation informing folks about the requirements under the law, and then encourage partnership and cooperation in order to achieve compliance,” explained Mayor Frank.

This post announcing the adoption of Tickle weeks before Christmas exemplifies the relationship Animal Care & Control has built with the community.

And this approach to community building has paid off. Posts on the County shelter’s Facebook page regularly receive hundreds of shares. “The legislative body sees this support and understands that there is a passion in the community for this service and what we’re doing here,” said Mayor Frank.

Additional Officer Allows County to “Dream a Little”

With two officers covering 346 square miles, Anderson County’s Animal Care and Control unit was taking things one day at a time. Though that changed when Officer Paul Rehn was hired. “By getting another officer on the team, we were able to start dreaming a little bit more about what we could do to advance the program,” said Mayor Frank.

Officer Rehn was tapped by Mayor Frank to find an animal control software solution. “I turned Paul loose and said, find something. He brought me several companies to look at. And I said, well, you guys are going to be dealing with this. Which one do you like? And he chose Comcate. That’s when we set up the first meeting,” said Mayor Frank.

The Anderson County, TN Animal Care & Control unit takes quickly to their new software. Left to Right: Brian Porter, Director of Animal Care & Control; Officer Paul Rehn; Officer Rodger McLaughlin

Simplicity Overcomes Barriers to Modernization

Introducing new software into a municipality comes with challenges. Budgets are limited and everyone already has a day job, leaving limited time for setting up new software and training. Mayor Frank shared her experience of working with Comcate below.

“Looking at software is really and truly overwhelming. I look at the efforts it’s going to take us to get started and then the cost of standing up the software. And that’s usually where we stop because it looks like too big a mountain to climb.

Mayor Terry Frank of Anderson County, TN notes via Zoom that feature overload is a hurdle to software adoption and that simplicity is the key to success

Many of the software companies we considered offered a laundry list of features, but I know our folks are limited by time. And we don’t want to pay for features we’re never going to use. But with Comcate it was different. Their software had just what we needed, and the cost was very reasonable. So reasonable that we weren’t afraid to ask the county commission to build into our annual budget.

On top of that, our implementation was very organized. Kolten broke everything down into smaller steps, so nothing felt overwhelming. We just did a little bit at a time and then, bam, we were going live.

In fact, the project went so well that I’m excited about modernizing more County departments.”

Animal Control During COVID-19

In addition to operating more efficiently, Mayor Frank also wanted to decrease officers’ exposure to the public during the ongoing pandemic. “COVID-19 was one of the factors I used when I went to the county commission for funding. [Comcate’s Animal Control Manager] software reduces the chance of exposure by doing a lot of the work electronically instead of standing with someone and filling out paperwork,” said Mayor Frank. In fact, the County used CARES Act funding to pay for implementation costs and iPad Minis for the field.

Better Decisions with Data

Mayor Frank also shared that she’s excited about leveraging the data being captured by the new software. “When we’re asking for additional funding, we need to be able to back that ask up with data. We can’t go to the county commission with anecdotes. It’s our responsibility to provide commissioners with the data they need to make informed decisions,” said Mayor Frank.

Animal Control Manager by Comcate allows animal control officers to easily track repeat offenders and flag properties to alert responding officers of potential dangers

The County also wants to use data to focus its animal welfare efforts. “Two services we want to expand are community education and spay / neuter programs to deal with overpopulation,” said Mayor Frank.

“And with Comcate, we’ll have the data we need so officers know where to put their limited outreach time. Or if we have one area where we’re picking up a lot of animals for overpopulation, we can consider a spay / neuter program there,” added Mayor Frank.

“In the end,” concluded Mayor Frank, “Comcate helps our animal control resources go further and I look forward to working with them again.”

The Results

Officer Rehn, who was initially tapped to find a solution, shared his perspective. “Before Comcate we were still handing writing reports with no way to track prior calls or problem locations except by memory. Now within just a few minutes we can have a report done and have viewable records of all our cases.”

“What makes Comcate a good fit for the County is the user friendliness of the [animal control] program and the support Comcate offers. I’m still surprised how quickly I learned the program. Within just a couple of reports I became quite proficient at creating and managing my cases.”

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