Officer Vicki Havlik is celebrating retirement after twenty-six years as an Animal Control Officer for Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS), a division of the Department of Community Services (DCS).
Vicki’s early career was as a journeyman checker for Albertsons, but her passion has always been dogs. Vicki’s knowledge of raising and showing dogs led to reception work with Burnside Animal Hospital, where she regularly interacted with MCAS Officers. When Vicki learned of an opening for an Animal Control Officer position, she applied and was offered the job.
Officer Havlik has seen a lot of change during her career. When she started in 1994, field officers had just stopped using a paper card dispatch and record system for all of their cases, and had started to use an electronic database. She has also seen a lot of change in Portland’s population of pets and people. In the early years, there were many more stray dogs at large in the community, and officers dedicated most of their time to stray animal pickup.
Today, officers are able to focus more of their time on animal-welfare checks, and cruelty/neglect investigations. Officer Havlik has noticed the gradual rise of “Petlandia,” with increased pet ownership and rising standards for their care. While it’s a promising thing that community members are more conscientious of treating animals with great care and respect, officers also respond to many unfounded reports. For Officer Havlik, the answer is ongoing education- both for responsible pet-ownership, and helping community members to recognize cruelty/neglect.
One early case stands out for Officer Havlik on the importance of community education and second chances. She was responding to a complaint about an unlicensed dog who appeared thin, and didn’t have adequate shelter. She knocked on the door, and talked with the dog’s owner, who expressed dismay about the dog’s recent weight loss and diarrhea. Officer Havlik advised to find a higher-quality food that would be more nourishing in smaller portions, educated about pet sheltering standards, and helped get a harness for the dog. Weeks later, when Officer Havlik returned to follow-up, the dog had gained so much weight that the harness needed to be adjusted. The owner had done everything asked! She had better dog food, was using the harness, and had licensed her pet. Since then, Officer Havlik approached similar cases with hope for improvement. “We don’t want to seize anyone’s animals if we don’t have to,” Officer Havlik says. “The goal is to address correctible problems through community policing- education works if you give it a chance, and the outcome is better for everyone.” Officer Havlik credits her long-time mentor, Officer Michelle Luckey, with the lion’s share of her career-knowledge and experience.
In retirement, Vicki looks forward to dedicating more time to her passion- training and showing her prize-winning Cairn Terriers. Vicki specializes in conformation, performance, agility, earth dog, and tracking.
Thank you, Officer Havlik, for your dedicated service to the pets and people of Multnomah County. We wish you the best in retirement, and you’ll be greatly missed.