SOMERS, N.Y. – Helga Stanton became the Somers Dog Control Officer nearly 17 years ago, when the job opened and her husband, now a lieutenant for the town's police force, told her, “You’d be good at that job.”
“It was very casual in those days,” Stanton said, “but now it’s more professional. I have a uniform, a lot more paperwork and I write incident reports. But the town has grown and we really need it.”
Stanton is most frequently called on when a dog is running loose, barking or harassing passersby. “I go there and I talk to the owner and I tell the complainant to let me know if it continues,” she said.
She helps dogs who are lost to find their owners and dogs who need homes to find new families.
She also gives appearance tickets to people who don’t renew their dog licenses. There are about 1,500 licensed dogs in Somers. The limit is three per household. The town has a code enforcer for people who have more than that.
When a dog-bites-dog situation arises, it is simply between the owners, but if a dog bites a human, “I have to notify the Board of Health,” she explained. “We have to find out if the dog had rabies shots. One time a dog was bitten by a raccoon. The dog had no shots, so we had to monitor it for six months. Fortunately, it was okay.”
She also deals with dangerous dogs. One of her most complicated situations occurred when a pit bull bit its owner’s guest in the face. “The guy needed 40 or 50 stitches. The dog had to go into quarantine. The case went to court. The judge decided the dog could stay in town provided it lived in a pen and was muzzled. Not even an invisible fence was allowed.”
The Stantons have had their own share of canines – a German shepherd, two springer spaniels who produced a couple of litters, a yorkie and a rescue poodle, “who bit everyone except my husband,” said Stanton. Now they have another yorkie, 8-year-old Penny from Pennsylvania.
The couple met in Mount Vernon more than 40 years ago. She was driving a little green sports car and “he pulled me over,” she said. “He said, ‘I noticed you around town,’” and asked her for a date.
In 1969, while living with in-laws in the Bronx, the young couple drove to Carmel to visit relatives. Passing through Somers, they liked what they saw, so they stopped on the way home to chat with a real estate agent. “She showed us this house in Lake Lincolndale and we thought it had potential, so we bought it.”
The Stantons have raised four children in that house and still love it.