Beverly LaPlume wrapping up her duties as ACO for Avon, Canton
By John Fitts
When Beverly LaPlume took over the role of Animal Control Officer for Avon and Canton in 2006, she fully intended to stay for just one year.
Tina Deltatto (formerly Barrow), an Avon Police lieutenant at the time, was a customer of LaPlume’s candle business, Olde Tyme Country Candles. The two also shared a mutual friend and a love of dogs. Both owned Dalmatians.
“She knew I rescued dogs and she knew I was good with the dogs,” LaPlume said.
Deltatto said LaPlume is one of the “most caring, genuine people.”
Barrow also thought LaPlume would be a good Animal Control Officer (ACO).
“Beverly’s just one of a kind,” she said. “She’s just very, very genuine and a perfect person for the job.”
It took some convincing, but LaPlume ended up bidding for job – initially as an independent contractor.
“I said, ‘I’ll do it for it for a year and we’ll get it up and running smoothly but that’s probably the longest I can do it,’” LaPlume said.
Six months in, residents were reporting good things about LaPlume’s responsiveness and work, and officials asked her to stay on.
LaPlume was putting in an estimated 50 to 60 hours a week, double of the original estimate, so she knew a few tweaks were needed but she also loved the job and it was good for her. Tragically LaPlume had lost her 24-year-old daughter, Jessica, – who also loved animals - a few years earlier.
“It gave me a purpose,” LaPlume said. “I kept busy and here I am 16 years later.”
Now, LaPlume has decided it’s time to retire and she will be doing so on June 30.
When she came to the job, LaPlume received formal training from the National Animal Care and Control Association, completing initial certification and yearly training.
She also became a certified nuisance wildlife officer, which has come in handy in a few field situations but largely has allowed her to advise residents in a variety of situations. She also works closely with other organizations, such as Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton.
The bulk of LaPlume’s work has focused on domestic animals such as cats and dogs, especially the latter. She recently learned that the state had documented more than 1,800 dogs that she’s either reunited with their owners or adopted to good homes.
Over the years, LaPlume has responded to abuse calls, a few of which were major news stories at the time. There was a case of one dog that was frozen to the ground, another dog that was so malnourished that he was eating plastic toys to try and fill his stomach, and a situation that involved 39 dogs and five cats in a Collinsville apartment.
Fortunately, those stories had positive endings. In the Collinsville incident, LaPlume was able to quickly get dogs surrendered and make arrangements with area facilities, to not only get the animals needed care but also spare the town from large veterinary bills.
Most calls, of course, are much less dramatic. People often call seeking advice or LaPlume responds to reports of things like roaming or unlicensed dogs.
But LaPlume said she’s not quick to issue tickets in these more common situations. She’d rather provide education owners about safety and local dog laws and ensure that animals are going to be well cared for.
“A lot of this job is PR, because you need to be able to communicate with the public in a way that gets them to understand, respond and comply. Basically, I educated them on what the dog laws were and what could happen.
I never felt that tickets solved the problem. That’s been my motto all along. The communication between the ACO and working with the people is what resolves the issues.”
She even said she refused to ticket a man who was walking a dog off leash and without a collar at Fisher Meadows in Avon years ago, even though he pointedly told her to give him one and let him get on his way.
Instead – long story short - LaPlume sent him home with three leashes and a collar, giving him no excuses to offend again.
She feels this philosophy stems from knowing all too well that people might be going through something she doesn’t know about.
“This is not a control issue to me. This is about communication with the public,” she said. “I have compassion for the animals and empathy for the people. That’s how I always looked at it. My compassion is for the animals and empathy is for the people … I know things can be going on behind the scenes that I don’t know and I don’t want to add to it.”
Of course, some repeat offenders will get tickets, as will those accused of cruelty. Even then, however, LaPlume first works to get the animals to a safe situation.
“My goal is get the dog out of there, get the dog seized, get the dog in a safe place with me and go from there,” she said.
It’s sometimes a long process but it’s also extremely satisfying when animals are placed into a good home. In some cases that has involved placing a dog to a owner who’s been through tragedy and needs the animal as much as it needs them.
“To see the dogs make it and go to good homes is the best thing,” she said. “It’s what I do this for. I’ll give the dogs a voice. I can’t save them all, but the ones I can I know I’ve done the best for them.”
And the people, of course, aren’t ignored either. In those more serious cases, responding officers or personnel from other agencies sometimes have the responsibility of getting owners the help they need.
Over the years, LaPlume has grown close to so many dogs and owners. Sometimes, people who can’t handle a tough situation, ask LaPlume to bring an animal to be put down when that becomes necessary.
LaPlume’s also been instrumental in many happier moments.
Approximately a decade ago, she secured Miller Foods to sponsor Waggin’ For Wheels, a successful effort to raise funds for a new Animal Control van.
It’s one of many ways LaPlume has gotten the community involved. More recently, members of the West Avon Garden Club, with support from Sunnybrook Farms Plant Nursery, helped spruce up the garden in front of the Avon Animal Shelter, where some its members had planted a small garden years earlier. LaPlume even got ahold of a decommissioned hydrant and added some painted touches to it and the sidewalk area.
And, of course, LaPlume is known for her personal love of animals. Residents in Avon and Canton are most familiar with Corey, her Terrier Cross sidekick who accompanied her on the job and at public and school appearances until declining health brought his retirement in 2017. Sadly he passed away 2 years ago but today, Simba, a Terrier Mix, is by her side.
Canton Police Chief Christopher Arciero said LaPlume has provided exceptional services as ACO in both the every-day and high-profile incidents and behind the scenes.
“Bev provided an exceptional service to both Canton and Avon on all matters animal related,” he said. “Bev worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure animals were taken care of. She spent countless hours of her own time to always be there to offer guidance to and answer questions from town residents. Her expertise and networking made her an extremely effective animal control officer.
I will always remember the enthusiasm and effort she offered in the project that resulted in the acquisition of the Canton/Avon animal control vehicle. She was instrumental in the public and private support for that project.
She will certainly be missed by her many two-legged and four-legged friends.”
LaPlume plans to stay involved with animals and is planning to help a few local animal oriented businesses and organizations with their efforts. Retirement will also give her more time to spend with Rich, her husband of 41 years. One thing they love to do is travel to Vermont and retirement will free up time for such ventures.
But LaPlume will certainly miss her work as ACO.
“I loved the dogs, I loved being able to help the people. It’s just been a good thing for me,” she said. “I’m hoping I made a difference in their lives and also with the department to show how important animal control is.”