By Lasca Randels
WARSAW — Although Jeff Clark, Kosciusko County’s new animal control officer, has only been serving in the position for a month, he jokes that he is already wondering how he’ll ever get caught up.
“There’s really enough work for two of me,” Clark said.
Clark, a road patrol merit deputy with the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office, still has two training modules left to complete. Training was put on hold, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Clark isn’t sure when that will get back on track.
He described the training as being “national training generically for all animal control” and said it’s not specific for each state.
Clark’s career in law enforcement began in 1996 when he worked as a full-time police officer in Wabash County. He has been working in law enforcement in Kosciusko County for over 10 years.
Prior to Clark, the county ACO position was held by Jerry Clase for approximately 30 years. Clase retired in October 2019 following a highly publicized dispute over how he put down a sick dog.
The county ACO was previously under the control of the commissioners, but that position now falls under the control of the sheriff.
“When Jerry Clase was here it was not a merit position. He was a civilian employee,” Clark said. “This is the first time it’s a merit position, which means I retain all of my other arrest powers in addition to animal control, whereas Jerry could only do animal control.”
“It’s kind of double-duty,” said Sgt. Chris Francis, public information officer for KCSO, noting that Clark can respond to both standard police calls as well as calls related to animals.
Clark praised Clase for his hard work but said he plans to do things a little differently than Clase did, including having more documentation of problems.
“I like to write a lot of tickets and pull reports to document the problems with animals,” Clark said. “The job description is domestic animal, but that doesn’t stop me from getting dispatched to every single type of animal — livestock, wild animals, et cetera.”
Clark said he grew up in the country and worked on farms growing up.
“That doesn’t really qualify anything with domestic animals,” Clark said. “I had dogs growing up. I have a lot to learn.”
“On a typical day, I start out with a number of pending calls specifically for animal control, which goes back to I don’t know how I’m ever going to get caught up,” Clark said. “And it can be anything. Predominantly it’s animals running at large or dogs not being restrained.”
Clark grew up just outside of North Manchester and graduated from North Manchester High School. He and his wife, Judi, currently live near North Webster. Clark has a son, Caleb, who is an Indiana State Trooper in Howard County, and two grown stepchildren.
As far as animals of his own, Clark said he and Judi have two cats.
In his free time, Clark said he and his wife go boating and skiing during the summer months. Clark also enjoys physical fitness and doing remodeling work around the house.
When asked if there is any information he’d like to get out there to the community, Clark said he would like people to understand that having pets is a big responsibility.
According to Clark, a lot of complaints involving dog bites entail pets that are not vaccinated.
“If I could just convey that having a dog is a very big responsibility,” Clark said. “I wish more people would take it seriously and just do the right things, vaccinations, give them a good home.”