Today, October 4, is World Animal Day, also known as Animal Lover's Day. It promotes awareness of the issues facing animals.
"What an appropriate day to call," said New Bedford Animal Control Officer Manny Maciel when reached by phone. "I just returned from the devastation in Florida, and I'm turning back and heading out again tomorrow for a week to work alongside the ASPCA and others, rescuing stranded animals around Lee County."
Maciel's career began 31 years ago. He said when he first started, it was just another part-time job "until I started reading and learning more about animals," he said.
"Three decades later, I can tell you that I love my career with a passion," Maciel said.
As a person who works with animals, does he have any phobias?
"Yeah, I'm always in fear of getting bit, but when I approach an animal, I do so with the thought that I'm not going to get bit," he said. "Knock on wood, in 31 years, I've never been bitten by a dog."
What's the most difficult animal he's ever confronted?
"To be honest," he said with a pause, "It's people!"
There have also been plenty of moments he will always remember.
"Seeing a six-and-a-half foot, heavy-bodied boa constrictor slithering across Mill and County Streets," he said. "Another time, I was up in an attic, with just one flimsy board across the rafters, trying to reach small crying dog. I thought for sure my foot was going to go through the ceiling."
As for choosing animals as home companions, Maciel said, "You can pick an animal, but unless that animal is picking you – that's when you know you've got the right one. The animals have always rescued the people, not the other way around."
In a few days, Maciel will report back what he's finding and how things are going, rescuing abandoned animals in the Fort Myers area. He has rushed to the rescue of animals in the past, such as helping abandoned dogs near Chernobyl and assisting animals after Hurricane Ida in Louisiana.
If you'd like to help give the stranded animals a second chance, you can go to ASPCA.org/donate.