DERRY — She’s new in this job and now bringing her love of animals and their safety to Derry.

Melinda Patterson is Derry’s new animal control officer, hired Nov. 28, 2022, and officially sworn in during a ceremony weeks later.

Patterson’s office is next to the Derry Dog Park off of Fordway, and often quiet during the day, but other times, she is called to assist with roaming dogs, lost pets, horses that may break through a fence, or any combination of wildlife situations that may be causing animals trauma or danger.

And keeping the community safe is also a priority.

Patterson, a Lowell, Massachusetts, native, grew up with hardly a time where pets weren’t a prominent part of her family.

There were hermit crabs, dogs, cats, birds and even a pair of pet rats, Chip and Rocky, that shared Patterson’s home.

Patterson’s path eventually led her to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications, but also veered to animal science, gaining a certificate from North Shore Community College.

She worked with special education students in the Lowell school district for eight years and also began her own pet sitting and dog walking business.

But knew she also wanted to follow a journey to support animals in a bigger way.

In 2020, Patterson took a job with the Lowell Police Department as its animal control officer and graduated from the Animal Control Officers Association of Massachusetts Academy in October 2022.

The job was often fast paced, with animals needing help that were in distress or injured or others roaming away from home and needing to be identified, kept safe while owners were located, or taken to a rescue organization for additional care.

And the training needed to take on the job included many different aspects of animal care, from learning about animals in the wild, trapping, herding loose livestock, to basic care needed to support an animal’s life.

Patterson is working with rehabilitation efforts in New Hampshire if there is an owl, skunk bat or other wild animal that is hurt and needs help.

Part of the job also includes learning all about the state’s laws when it comes to pets, animals, what’s allowed, what’s safe and what animal owners are responsible for.

“New Hampshire laws are different than those in Massachusetts,” Patterson said.

There are rules for loose dogs, if a dog bites, locating a dog, checking for a microchip and working hard to find a missing animal’s owner.

A wall in her office off Fordway is splattered with sheets of paper, showing missing dogs and cats.

In the rear space, a lineup of kennels are ready for when animals need to be kept prior to finding an owner or heading off to the next step that could be rehabilitation or veterinarian care.

A dog may be kept at the kennel for up to seven days while trying to locate the owner, Patterson said.

During off hours, local police handle the animal calls.

And when there is happy reunion among pet and owner, that makes the job worthwhile as is hearing success stories from the state’s rehabilitation experts who may care for an injured bat or wild bird.

“Reuniting any animal with an owner is a good feeling,” she said.

People are generous, Patterson added, often dropping off donations of pet food, blankets, toys and other items.

Patterson credits the support, including local veterinarians, and rescue organizations that pitch in to help including Greater Derry Humane Society and Granite State Dog Recovery.

“There are a lot of resources to use and partnerships,” she said.

Patterson hopes to put together information for residents on some of the rules governing the town’s animals, and other pertinent information about rabies vaccinations and licensing.

Patterson said she is doing something she loves and she hopes she can make a difference in Derry as she moves forward in her new position.

“I want to be able to be the voice of the animals,” she said. “They have no voice.”

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