The adage, “time flies when you’re having fun” can be applied to BARC Animal Control Officer Rebeckah Glaster. She’s worked at the shelter for nearly two years, but to let her tell it, the experience still feels like yesterday.
“It’s been a wonderful time. My first year didn’t even feel like probation,” she said. “The training process was a good time, doing a ride-along was a good time. It’s part of the interview process. I wanted to keep coming.”
Her sunny disposition is the first thing you notice about her, which comes in handy capturing stray dogs. Her background as a dog trainer helps her when approaching a dog, allowing her to better sense their mood and figure out the best way handle a frightened canine.
It’s one of the things Deputy Assistant Director Jarrad Mears praised about her. “She’s a hard worker and an awesome human being. She deserves some recognition,” he said. "Rebeckah has been a breath of fresh air to our department and a reminder to us all about what public service really means. Her light is always shining, and it is noted by all that meet her. We’re so proud that she has found a home with the BARC team and the residents of. Houston is fortunate to have her on their side."
That experience was recently put on display when she and a team of animal control handlers responded to a call about several stray dogs located at an abandoned property on the city’s north side.
Before she and the team heads out for the day, Glaster took a few minutes to perform an equipment check and review the log in her vehicle laptop to see what needs to be done.
She makes sure she has her tranquilzer darts ready for use in case of an emergency. It’s not her preferred course of action when dealing with a frightened animal.
Her first weapon of choice? A can of cat food. “Dogs love cat food,” Glaster said. “The smellier, the better.”
Using tactics like these go a long way in dispelling the negative image BARC often receives from the public. FOX 26 Houston recently posted a news story where nearly 30 dogs had to be euthanized a few days after undergoing spay and neuter surgeries. It’s an image she said she wants to help rehabilitate.
“That is another angle I’m able to approach with the public, helping to give us a better reputation in the community and put us in a much better light,” Glaster said. “All day, every day I get from folks, ‘Aren’t you the guys the go around killing dogs?’”
“I assure them we work hard on trying to find them homes. Because we are a city entity, we don’t have the luxury that private rescue shelters do. They can charge you to bring animals in or they can tell you no and turn you away.”
BARC is the agency responsible for enforcing the regulations or ordinances of the City of Houston, assuring public health and safety while also providing humane compassionate care for the animals that are brought to BARC for refuge.
Mears said the department tackles a monumental task responding to citizen complaints, picking up loose animals and attempting to provide a positive outcome for the animals in their care. The department average about 55,000 complaints, he said.
It’s why he stresses the importance of responsible pet ownership. “It starts with you at home, which in turn prevents the situations that our agency must deal with daily,” Mears said. “Make sure your pet is microchipped and registered with the City of Houston. That will ensure a quick return of your animal if it escapes the confines of your property.”
I love helping
“Contrary to belief, I do play with dogs. I know the tranquilizers look ugly a lot of the time, and I don’t do it all that often,” she said. “I’m very social and friendly to begin with, so kennel time is a good time for me, walking in the kennel playing with dogs.”
“I’m also a people person. I like talking to people. It’s not even about writing people tickets, but I’m also very big on educating the community, talking to kids, making people more informative on a dog’s body language, how to avoid getting bit, how not to chase stray cats and how to pick them up and avoid getting bit,” she added.
Glaster said she thinks of herself as a service-oriented person. “I love helping. I used to volunteer at a lot of rescue shelters. I looked up shelter jobs and found BARC, and it was a city job. I thought, ‘Oh that’s cool, I could work for the city.’”
All the professions she’s had have been animal or children related, Glaster said. “I’ve loved every single occupation I’ve had. I had one job where I worked as a receptionist in a healthcare office, and I absolutely hated it. I’m not a desk person. However, the people aspect of it was what had me there for so long,” she said.
Prior to working for BARC, one of Glaster’s first jobs was working at Petco as a dog trainer.
“It was a fluke; our dog trainer had quit on the spot and my boss asked if I wanted to try it out,” she said, laughing. “I was all for it, so I went through the training and had a wonderful mentor. I’ve loved it ever since.”
Loving dogs and being personable is helpful in her line of work. Glaster said people will get offended if an animal control officer comes across too assertively or aggressively when responding to a call about a stray animal.
“Especially when they feel very kindhearted and are trying to feed them, but then get upset because now the dog won’t leave your yard,” she said.
Which leads to another point: Glaster said the stray dog becomes your pet if you’re constantly feeding and sheltering the stray animal.
“That is something people don’t know, and we must explain to them as well. Like, ‘Oh the dog’s only been here a week,’ but the dog is now yours after four days of that,” she said.
“We are willing to take the dog, but you must keep in mind in the future that it becomes your pet and that’s why they’re not going anywhere.”
As friendly as Glaster is, she also admits to having a competitive nature. For a time, she led her team in the most caught stray animals.
“I held the number place for a very long time … just because I’m competitive and why not?” she laughed.
“One of my co-workers finally passed me up. We were neck and neck for a minute, and now I think he’s ahead of me by 60 dogs. And I cannot catch up to save my life. I’ve been in second place for so long. I’m like, ’take a vacation, or you know a couple of days off. Don’t come to work.’”
Ask her one hundred times if she enjoys her work. Her answer will remain the same.