White Bear Lake police chief Julie Swanson is becoming an accomplished pet photographer. That’s because when a member of the White Bear Lake Police Department picks up a lost dog, they bring the wayward pooch to police headquarters, where Swanson photographs the lost best friend and posts the picture on the department’s Facebook page.
“They are usually reunited with their family in about an hour or so,” says Swanson. But in the meantime, instead of being taken to an animal impound facility, “the dogs become something like temporary mascots for the police department. They bring a bright spot to our day,” she says.
The change in policy—keeping dogs around the station instead of taking them to an impound—was made recently when the company the city had contracted with was no longer available to handle lost dogs. “We made arrangements with St. Paul’s animal impound to house the dogs we find,” Swanson says. “It’s a wonderful facility where they really take care of the dogs, but St. Paul is 15 miles away and it adds a burden to our citizens to have to go that far to get their family pet back.” Instead, the dogs’ photos get posted to Facebook and their people can take them home right away.
A sampling of Facebook posts gives you an idea of what a win-win situation the new policy has created. Both of these dogs were reunited with their families:
“This friendly little fella came to the police department tonight to turn himself in after doing a jail-break from his yard. He will be here with us at the PD. Let us know if you can connect us to his owner(s).”
“This guy was found on McKnight Road and Orchard. He will be working security here until his parents are located ... he doesn’t seem to mind his new gig. If you need to reach him (mom and dad), please call 651.429.8550 before 4:00 p.m. and 651.429.8511 after 4:00 p.m.”
Getting the community in the habit of checking the department’s Facebook page to find a lost dog, or just to enjoy the pictures and posts, has another benefit. “Every post that gets shared brings more attention to us. We want people to get to know us,” says Swanson.
More citizens looking at the Facebook page means more people are aware of the other community programs the police department engages in, like ice cream socials—Cones with Cops, anyone?—and Floats with the Fuzz, a root beer float event.
“Starting in May, we have several community activities that we want people to be aware of,” Swanson says. Check the department’s Facebook page for times and dates, and while you’re there, read about good dogs that went wrong but got back on the right side of the fence with a little help from their friendly neighborhood police officers.