Champion Award - Jessecah Gower

When a fire took the lives of three cats and two dogs from two apartments in West Springfield, Jessecah Gower worked with firefighters to recover their bodies, arranged to have them cremated, and returned their ashes to their owners. As Animal Control Officer and Animal Health Inspector for West Springfield, Jesse interacts with many town residents.

What she loves the most about her job is that she never has the same day twice, each morning bringing with it a variety of issues. What she dislikes is the word “control” in her title. “I think of myself as an animal social worker,” she says. A problem solver, she often referees disputes among neighbors. She works with residents to clarify laws with language that can sometimes be confusing. She gives people the resources they need to keep their animals in their homes such as referring them to the Massachusetts Animal Fund or other sources for vaccine and spay/neuter support. Another interesting aspect of Jesse’s job is working with inspectors from the US Department of Agriculture and MSPCA to ensure the health and well-being of animals during the Big E.

A very active presence on social media, Jesse’s webpage on and the town’s animal control Facebook page are running blogs of missing, found, or injured animals, interspersed with advice as varied as obtaining a dog license or dealing with wildlife in your backyard. On West Springfield’s Animal Control website, she lists links to helpful organizations including Dakin’s spay/neuter clinic.

Jesse worked as a florist in Wellesley and Wilbraham until the recession of 2007 forced cutbacks in those businesses. She moved to Springfield and volunteered at Thomas J. O’Connor Center, eventually becoming staff volunteer coordinator. She attended the academy of the Animal Control Officers Association of Massachusetts and received her certification in animal control. When an opening came up in West Springfield in 2016, Jesse applied for and got the job. She went on to graduate from the police academy in 2018 and became a special police officer.

Her nominator writes “Jessecah is constantly helping other cities and towns in an ACO capacity. She is renowned for being very much above and beyond in doing her job. She is also very knowledgeable about wildlife.”

“Jesse is a force for good. She doesn’t just support her town but the humane community as a whole,” according to Alanna Regan, Dakin’s Assistant Manager and Feline Specialist. “She’s unmatched in her efforts to reunite found animals with their owners and goes to great lengths to get each animal the care they need, even if it means driving across the state.”

“Jesse is fun to work with and maintains her sense of humor even in difficult situations,” said Sarah Pentowski, Dakin’s Admission and Capacity Coordinator. “She helps us out when we’re in crisis.” For example, when Dakin was overwhelmed with guinea pigs, Jesse fostered several.

In addition to two sons, Jesse’s family currently includes Cosmo, a 12-year-old pitbull; Cashew, an 11-year-old chihuahua (a foster fail); and Joey, a three-year-old three-legged chihuahua, a Dakin alumnus.