Maryann Kleinschmitt loves her job as the municipal animal control officer and park ranger for the town of New Canaan. A graduate of Sacred Heart University, Maryann has worked in New Canaan for 13 years and is one of the town's unsung heroes. She works tirelessly on behalf of all animals in New Canaan.

Her many duties include enforcement of laws designed to help barking or roaming dogs, rabies contact, deer management, patrols of all New Canaan parks, animal adoption, cruelty and the care and maintenance of the town's animal shelter. Aided by three assistants, she provides round-the-clock coverage for improving conditions facing animals in our community.

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Meeting Maryann it is evident that she cares passionately about her job. She is particularly concerned about problems facing dog owners and stresses the fact that dog owners should know that caring for a canine is a serious responsibility.

"Before adopting a dog, people should ask themselves if they have the necessary time to train and socialize the dog. Can you provide the grooming that some breeds need? Are you willing to hire a dog walker if you work away from home? Is the breed size and personality a good fit for your present living and family situation?" she asks.

She encourages anyone who wants to adopt a pet to go to the animal shelter and not a pet shop. One of her biggest concerns is profit-driven puppy mills. Maryann received an award for helping the state of Connecticut address this issue.

"With so many animals in our shelter looking for a good home, we need to crack down on puppy mills that provide animals to pet shops," she said. "Often these puppies are ill or come burdened with other problems created by unscrupulous breeders."

Animal cruelty is also a concern. "As enforcement officers of the state, we are required to report any issues of animal cruelty, which is a misdemeanor," she said. "It is a growing concern that needs to be closely monitored as it can often be a sign that something is seriously wrong with an individual or that a family is facing problems."

It is great to know that there is someone with Maryann's experience and commitment looking out for animals in New Canaan.

Cathy Kangas is a member of the board of directors of the Humane Society of the United States. She can be reached at