Animal Control Officer Rich Burton. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Animal Control Officer Rich Burton, a popular officer across the Lewiston-Auburn area as well as parts of Oxford County, can no longer work on domestic animal complaints after an investigation was launched by the state Animal Welfare Program.

The investigation, with findings released earlier this week, accuses Burton of failing to perform his duties and for failing to maintain animal control certification as required by Maine law.

The dereliction of duty complaint centers around Baldwin Hill Beagles, a municipal kennel in Livermore, where state officials charge that Burton failed to make proper inspections between 2019 and 2022.

In the complaint, signed by Animal Welfare Program Director Ronda Steciuk, state officials say Burton’s failure to properly inspect the kennel caused them to be improperly licensed for a number of years.

Burton is also accused of failing to take action against the operators of the kennel following complaints of barking dogs and dogs running at large lodged in July and November 2022.

The complaints against Burton have been referred to the Attorney General’s Office.


Burton disputes the allegations and said he plans to fight them once the matter is handled by the Attorney General’s Office. He said the town of Livermore has “hundreds of pages of documents that will disprove all claims that were in that report.”

He also said he can produce a certificate for the annual training that state officials say he failed to maintain.

In the meantime, many who work with animals in the area speculate that coverage for domestic animal complaints could go uncovered across a large swath of the region.

Officially, Burton is the animal control officer in Livermore and Canton, where he has been on the job since 2014. But he also deals with animal calls in several other areas, including Turner, Wales and Greene, frequently covering for other animal control officers who are unable to respond.

Burton is regularly called for help by police officials at various departments who cannot find other animal agents to respond at odd hours. Portland police have twice called him for assistance with animal calls late at night, Burton said.

In the past two years, Burton estimates he has dealt with 400 complaints involving cats alone. In the spring, he rounded up more than four dozen of the animals discovered near a construction trailer on River Road in Canton where two freezing pit bulls and several kittens were also found.


Burton worked for days to round up the cats and bring them for treatment at area shelters.

The Animal Welfare Program’s action against Burton means he can no longer respond to domestic animal complaints anywhere in the state, including those involving further cat colonies or pets struck by vehicles. It is unclear how the Animal Welfare Program plans to cover the areas previously handled by Burton.

Steciuk, the director, was out of the office this week and could not be reached. Messages sent to others at the state program went unanswered.

Burton, operating as Specialized Wild Animal Trapping, is still licensed through Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife to handle wild animal calls. He’s still allowed to contend with the snakes in showers, bats in attics, skunks raising havoc, scrappy raccoons, ferocious weasels and other wildlife issues that have earned him fame and admiration around the region.

But with so many domestic animals routinely getting injured or otherwise wandering into predicaments, local animal handlers fear that it’s the animals themselves who will suffer from Burton’s inability to rescue them.

Jennifer Marchigiani, who operates Misfits Rehab out of Auburn, vehemently believes that the state should do whatever they can to put Burton back on the job.


“The fact that Rich has to try to defend himself or even be accused of not doing his job is laughable,” she said. “All the man does is work! He works day and night helping wildlife and domestics alike. I’ve worked with him for about 20 years now. I’ve heard the multiple times he has helped other ACOs when it was not even his job to do so but he did it to help friend and animals alike. With that type of work ethic and that type of compassion, why would anyone think he would slack on his job.”

Tracy Ann Bradbury, who has worked with Burton for two years through efforts to get cats adopted, said Burton’s dedication to animal welfare is unsurpassed.

“All he cares about is animals and the community and wanting to help any way he can,” she said. “He is an amazing man with a huge heart.”

Several people added that while he contends with critters in a variety of scenarios, he also looks out for the humans among them. Burton is particularly known for being protective of older folks who get swindled by con artists posing as pest control.

“This community,” Bradbury said, “can’t do without him.”

Others took to social media to defend Burton and to extol his dedication to animal welfare.

“Rich Burton takes his job very seriously, and is an asset to our communities and animals that exist within them,” wrote Meagan Charest of Lewiston. “Losing him as a resource would be detrimental to not only the wildlife he supports, but also to the many rehabbers that work closely with him, as well as the assistance he provides when domestic animals are found in abhorrent situations.”

Burton has been disciplined before by state officials, in a matter that later proved to be a misunderstanding.

In 2011, Burton was disciplined by Inland Fisheries and Wildlife over his acquisition of a Taser. After further investigation into the matter, state officials reinstated Burton and his work with critters has continued since.

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